Author: Nathan Akrill

In 1828 Joseph Anning drew an illustration of an object his sister Mary had recovered from the beach. But this was no gnarled driftwood, glistening pebble or delicate shell. Mary had uncovered a pterosaur. An ancient flying creature. Fossilised and preserved in the layers of Lower Lias near their home in Lyme Regis. It was the first of its kind to be discovered in the UK and the first ever to be scientifically described. However, Joseph’s drawing was more than an objective representation. He used ink revived with water from another ancient creature found in the same Jurassic rock; the belemnite. Joseph painted the ink across the page carving out the form and line of this unfamiliar life form with a material from its own time. This was not merely a scientific observation, it was a work of art.

Throughout history, the coastline now defined as the Jurassic Coast, has been understood in a variety of ways. It is a place viewed from many different perspectives. Often described as a giant classroom, this coast is a meeting point of individuals and organisations, scientists and artists.

My name is Frances Rylands and I am the third PhD research student working as part of the collaboration between the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site and the University of Exeter Geography department. My research will be an ‘inside-out’ study of the Jurassic Coast Arts Programme. I shall be considering the boundaries between policy and practice, art and science and exploring how they are negotiated, tested and broken down.

So my current working title is:

“Entanglements of creative practice and creative policy: art-science collaborations along the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site.”

Over the next three years I am hoping to speak to as many people as possible to understand how the Jurassic Coast has been and can be a confluence for scientists and artists; how creative policy restricts or enables creative practice and what it means to be a World Heritage Site in today’s bureaucratic environment.

You can follow my progress along with that of the other PhD students Jonny and Rose at

Frances Rylands

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