May 22nd 2018

Wheal Martyn hosts ‘Landscapes in Limbo’ Conference

Wheal Martyn hosted a three day conference between 8 and 10 May run by the University of Exeter’s Environment and Sustainability Institute as part of their Heritage Futures Project ( The event explored how artists and land managers can collaborate to share heritage and engage people with transitional landscapes.

While all landscapes undergo change over time, in some, processes of change and transformation are particularly dynamic and uncertain. In these transitional environments, ongoing processes – such as extraction, erosion, ruination, rewilding and depopulation unsettle and rearrange places and communities. The open and fluid character of such landscapes often draws artists and other creative practitioners to work in them. Experimental creative practice can generate alternative perspectives on these ‘landscapes in limbo,’ and often open up new possibilities for heritage and art-based community engagement and economic development.

The conference provided a rare opportunity for dialogue between creative practitioners and those responsible for landscape management and planning.  Invited guests, and representatives from relevant local industries and communities, along with Heritage Futures case study partners (from Portugal, Suffolk and Cornwall), explored how creative modes of thinking and doing can generate alternative futures in transitional landscapes.  The event included field trips to sites of interest in the clay country and an opportunity to contribute to the development of a framework for embedding creative approaches in land management.


Sean Simpson (Imerys) and Chris Varcoe (Eco-Bos) kicked off proceedings by introducing the post-operational clay landscape, its multiple uses and potential futures.  A landscape tour followed which included commentary from environmental artist, Antony Lyons, Peter Herring (Historic England) and Pete Whitbread-Abrutat (Future Terrains).  Delegates then visited Blackpool Pit for a field trip led by Sean and Peter with PhD student Robyn Raxworthy and Caitlin DeSilvey (University of Exeter)


Presentations from Duncan Kent and Ian Marsh (National Trust) focused on integrating creative practice into landscape management, providing perspectives from the Trust on benefits and challenges related to their experience of integrating arts approaches within their dynamic landscapes.  Focusing on contemporary curation in/of place, Michele Horrigan (Askeaton Arts) and Karen Guthrie (Grizedale Arts) reflected on extended duration curatorial involvement with specific landscapes and communities.


Later Sue Hill and Luce Choules explored the theme of Interventions and Exposures, through their own reflections as artists, on their experiences making work in particular post-industrial/transitional landscapes.


Finally, Aurora Tang (Centre for Land Use Interpretation), Euan Hall (The Land Trust) and Pedro Prata (Associação Transumância e Natureza) led a workshop on ‘Making Futures’ followed by group discussion which resulted in establishing a shared set of principles and practices on creativity and stewardship within ‘Landscapes in Limbo’.