Jurassic Coast Ambassador Sarah Acton is the Jurassic Coast’s new poet-in-residence, and her East Devon residency is being hosted by Beer Village Heritage in June, Fairlynch Museum, Budleigh Salterton in July, Exmouth Museum in August and Sidmouth Museum in September.
Sarah will be taking inspiration from each place, and exhibits within the museums’ collections, to create a body of site-specific poetry. All workshops and poetry walks will be announced on the Jurassic Coast’s social media so keep a look out!
This first leg of my Jurassic Coast East Devon poetry residency is close to home in the village where I live, Beer, and is hosted by Beer Village Heritage. I’ve had fun exploring the Fine Foundation Centre on the beach, and taken long walks with fellow Jurassic Coast Ambassadors Norah Jaggers and Mike Green. I’ve spent hours and days walking the cliffs and beach, but most of all I’ve discovered afresh and engaged with the rich earth history and the cultural history of the Jurassic coastline on my doorstep.
I thought that this first leg of the residency would be comfortable – I mean I live here. I know Beer, right?
But this month has been an eye-opener in terms of my active participation with the landscape, and I’ve been struck daily by how much we can learn by opening our eyes wide and breathing in our locality in all of its detail. Every hour I sit beholding the beach, the light shifts the shapes of the land and sea in front of me, and suddenly something else changes inside me too. New perspectives and voices gather in my head and on the page.
I’ll be delivering workshops or walks for each of the four host organisations in East Devon in the coming months, and on Thursday night my first poetry walk of the series was a gentle stroll along Beer beach with a small group, looking at the natural features with poetry readings and brief writing exercises at various stopping points.
We enjoyed the golden evening sun, and being outside in nature together, drinking in the natural and man-made characteristics of the living beach with all of our senses. From Beer you can see as far out as Portland Bill on a clear day and around the corner to the Triassic red cliffs of Seaton, but let’s not forget to take in and wonder at the mystery of the ancient pebbles, and the chalk cliffs standing right behind us.
Perhaps one of smugglers, of vast nets of silver herring on route to London, of adventure, or hard poverty-stricken subsistence living…or perhaps the cliffs would talk of the nesting
cormorants and gulls, the
cool flint seams gleaming…or of erosion and slow-time living-pace. They might tell us of what has been and what will come, for they are the everyday-rock -faces that we take for granted, but they have stood here, moving and shifting and influencing all of the living beings inhabiting the beach for millennia.
What can’t they teach us if we stop for a while and listen?
I have been privileged to take the time to stop and listen this month in the hope that something of these wily white cliffs speaks out through my poetry.
With grateful thanks to Beer Village Heritage and all of its members.