SU CARROLL shares the best activities to do and see close to the coastline this month. Here’s her round up of the best things to do in March.
1. BE MY VALENTINES
The story behind Valentines, one of the most innovative publishers of postcards and greetings cards in the world, is explored in a free exhibition at V&A Dundee, Scotland’s design museum. Best known for popularising the picture postcard by capitalising on rapid developments in photography, printing and tourism in the early 20th century, Valentines mass produced a fascinating body of work in photography, illustration and print design and was one of Dundee’s most successful employers for over 150 years.
The exhibition, Sincerely, Valentines – From Postcards to Greetings Cards, is in collaboration with the University of St Andrews (which has a Valentines archive) and celebrates the workforce, design process and output of the Dundee firm that has been productive since 1825. For the exhibition new work by two contemporary designers has been commissioned. Maeve Redmond created a series of oversized postcards and a new film by Rob Kennedy includes stories from workers at the company from the 1950s to the 1990s. The exhibition continues until May 21. Entry is free. vam.ac.uk/Dundee
All aboard for Dundee Museum of Transport – trams, trains, buses, cars, bikes and even Chitty Chitty Bang Bang can be seen at the museum, which takes a lovely nostalgic look at transport. But there’s also a nod to the future with a special exhibition of the different ways we may all be getting around. dmot.co.uk.
2. FEEL THE NOISE
There’s a fascinating sensory experience at The Word in South Shields where Soundpit invites visitors to explore what sound and music “feels” like, in an interactive installation featuring three sandpits, each with their own name and special visual and sonic personality and character. Through playing and touching the sand, children and adults can develop their own images, sounds and pieces of music.
The exhibition, by artist Di Mainstone, is set in darkness and was showcased at the Southbank Centre (the largest arts centre in the UK) in 2019. Hidden Histories, in The Word’s smaller exhibition pod, is a film inviting audiences to explore objects that capture stories that may have been hidden over time including from South Tyneside’s Roman and Anglo-Saxon heritage. Both exhibitions at The Word (theworduk.org) end on April 23.
Conversation Piece by the late Spanish sculptor Juan Munoz is next to Littlehaven Beach at the mouth of the Tyne. Each of the 22 mysterious figures is 1.5m high and weighs about a quarter of a ton. Locals call them (inspired by their shape) “the weebles”. Information on this and other public works of art at visitsouthtynside.co.uk
3. POTTER REMEMBERED
A new exhibition at the Leach Pottery in St Ives is dedicated to Michael Leach, second son of esteemed potter Bernard. The exhibition explores Michael’s work and ideas in relation to the Leach legacy and to his own practice at Yelland Pottery. This show has been shaped in collaboration with his family and former students, with personal stories, objects and photographs to offer a unique insight into this private and unassuming craftsman. The exhibition runs in the Leach Pottery Cube until April 15. leachpottery.com
4. VIVA VIVALDI
Cornwall-based James Wilton Dance have created a spellbinding show which blends elements of Vivaldi’s instantly recognisable The Four Seasons and reimagines it with composer Max Richter and contributions from Michal Wojtas. Choreographer James Wilton, who set up his company in 2010, performs with Sarah Jane Taylor, taking the audience on a journey through the seasons. Spring (The Singularity) is frenetic and full of energy, like the shoots of plants forcing their way into the sun and gives way to Summer (The Expanding Universe) with its emotional heat and sensual connections. Then you slip into Autumn (The Cooling Universe), the time of harvest, full of hope and expectation, and then Winter (Entropic Heat Death) beckons.
The Four Seasons blends elements of classical dance with acrobatics, martial arts and the demanding capoeira dance. James Wilton Dance are at The Landmark, Ilfracombe on March 2. queenstheatre-barnstaple.com
(Or hate, depending on your viewpoint) Verity, the 66 foot tall stainless steel and bronze sculpture created by artist Damien Hirst. The statue of a pregnant woman holding a sword in the air stands on the pier at the entrance to the harbour overlooking the Bristol Channel. Half of the sculpture shows the inside of the boy with the foetus visible. Whatever your viewpoint, it’s worth a look. visitilfracombe.co.uk
5. ON DYLAN’S DOORSTEP
A passion for words lives on after Dylan Thomas in his hometown of Laugharne, with the annual literary festival held over a weekend in March. It’s kept deliberately small with performances in a couple of venues in town. This year’s festival has lots of modern writers – columnist and author Caitlin Moran, Peter Paphides, Henry Normal and Duncan Campbell – and comedy from Stewart Lee, March Thomas and Isy Suttie. Music comes from the likes of Chris Difford (Squeeze) and folk legends Eliza Carthy and her father Martin Carthy.
Book online for the festival (March 24-26) at thelaugharneweekend.com
Well it would be rude to go to Laugharne and not call into the Boathouse where Dylan Thomas lived and worked. Home was a beautiful but fairly modest property which had incredible views over three estuaries, very atmospheric. He worked away from the chaos of family life in a little shed with the same view, but higher up the road. It’s preserved as it was in his day. dylanthomasboathouse.com
6. WATCH THIS SPACE
The coast is at the heart of the exhibition at the Newlyn Art Gallery, We Are Floating in Space. It features artists in Cornwall and Devon, who use ideas of the coast, or the materials of the shoreline, to create their work. The exhibition looks beyond the tradition of seascapes to showcase artists who use the coast to address themes in their contemporary art practice. The exhibition also includes artists who have used and transformed the materials of the coastline for their work such as the oak stool from the submerged ancient woodland of Mount’s Bay or a silver spoon cast from a rock pool.
We Are Floating in Space is at Newlyn Art Gallery (newlynartgallery.co.uk) Until June 3.
7. TEN FOR TEN
To celebrate its tenth anniversary, Hastings Contemporary is staging Making Waves, a special alumni exhibition appropriately bringing ten artworks by ten of Britain’s most astonishingly talented artists together in one space. All the artists have exhibited in the gallery over the last decade, including Maggi Hambling and Sir Quentin Blake. Other major artists in the exhibition are Chantal Joffe, Rose Wylie, Anselm Krut, Rachel Howard, Jeffrey Camp, Stephen Chambers, Anne Ryan and Gillian Ayres.
The gallery opened in 2012 with ground-breaking exhibitions, quality-packed retrospectives and important showcases for emerging and overlooked talent. More than 400,000 people have visited since opening. For information on the exhibition, which ends on March 12, go to hastingscontemporary.org.
This is an area rich in history, so I hope you were paying attention in school. Refresh your memory with a visit to Battle Castle and discovery the events behind 1066 and all that. An award-winning exhibition brings the drama of the Battle of Hastings and the Norman Conquest to life. There’s lots to see and do, including visiting the battlefield. Go to English Heritage for details (English-heritage.org.uk).
8. ALL DRESSED UP
Whitby, on the north Yorkshire coast, had a thriving textile industry with tailoring, dressmaking, millinery and shoemaking thriving, especially during Victorian times when it was a popular tourist destination. This year marks the bicentenary of Whitby Museum and an excuse to show some of the star exhibits from the museum’s costume collection. Because of the quality and condition of the Victorian and Edwardian fabrics they are not always on display to the public.
The costume collection is just one of the many highlights at the museum which also has fine art, jewellery, a photography collection, fossils and exhibits reflecting the area’s maritime and social history. whitbymuseum.org.uk
The atmosphere. Bram Stoker visited in 1890 and was struck by the environment – the river running down a deep valley to the sea, the busy town, the ruined Abbey and the graveyard that descends down towards the harbour. It formed the perfect location for his Gothic novel, Dracula, published in 1897. Discover it for yourself with a visit to Whitby Abbey, in the care of English Heritage. English-heritage.org.uk
9. QUEEN ON TOUR
Woburn Abbey, the home of the 15th Duke and Duchess of Bedford, is closed for a major refurbishment until 2024. As a result it is partnering with venues – such as The British Museum, Hampton Court and Royal Museums Greenwich in the UK and The Getty Villa in Los Angeles – to share its impressive art collection with a wider audience.
At The Box in Plymouth there will be a chance throughout this year to see The Armada Portrait of Elizabeth I, arguably the most recognisable depiction of the famous Tudor Queen. It is one of the three known surviving versions of the portrait and commemorates the most famous battle of Elizabeth I’s reign: the defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588. It shows Elizabeth in triumph, with the storm-lashed Spanish fleet behind her on the right and the English ships sailing through calm seas on the left.
It is said that Sir Francis Drake calmly played bowls on Plymouth Hoe while awaiting the Spanish ships. The portrait will be displayed in The Box’s 100 Journeys gallery, which examines Plymouth’s role as the start and finishing point for some of history’s most well-known voyages and expeditions.
Admission is free – before visiting go to theboxplymouth.com
For a taste of Tudor times, head for the Elizabethan House (tinyurl.com/mmkzs9s5) on Plymouth’s historic Barbican. The building has been preserved and enhanced as an interactive museum. It dates from the late 1500s when Plymouth was a thriving port and was saved from 20th century slum clearances.
10. YOUR SPACE
Weston Museum at Weston-super-Mare has a unique space reserved for community groups to hold their own exhibitions with a display cabinet and a touch screen to share images and video. Set up with support from the National Lottery Heritage Fund and Sharing Heritage there have been exhibitions by organisations including Greek Cypriots of Weston, North Somerset Black and Ethnic Minority group, Uphill Village Society and Weston, Clevedon and Portishead Railway.
The latest group to take advantage of the space is Holly Hedge animal sanctuary, an independent charity based in Barrow Gurney which rescues cats and dogs. On display are photographs and newspaper cuttings about the work of the sanctuary, fundraising activities which help support the charity that costs £650,000 a year to run and lots of cute dogs and cats who have gone to happy and loving homes.
The exhibition ends on March 4. westonmuseum.org
The iconic Grand Pier, which has risen like a phoenix from the ashes – literally – twice after fires in 1930 and 2008. It opened in 1904 and is great for families with arcade games (including many nostalgic classics), shooting galleries and penny pushers. grandpier.co.uk
Tickets are on sale for Rock Oyster Festival at Dinham House overlooking the Camel Estuary on Cornwall’s north coast. The family friendly festival marries great music – this year’s line-up includes Nile Rodgers and Chic and Sophie Ellis-Bextor – with fantastic food and activities. Back for this year is Under the Canopy with den-building, fire-making and combat classes in a children only zone. Grown-ups can try stand up paddleboarding yoga or other wellbeing activities.
Food is at the heart of this annual event and the 2023 line-up includes Rick Stein, Jack Stein, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, Andi Oliver, Mark Hix and Jude Kereama from Porthleven in Cornwall.
The festival is from July 27-30. rockoysterfestival.co.uk
Need more inspiration on things you can do by the coast this year? Check out our articles here.