Yarmouth Springs Eternal is a community arts, walking and nature project, instigated and led by community artist Genevieve Rudd. The project celebrates and connects with everyday or overlooked aspects of the natural world, whilst recognising the inequality of access to natural spaces, and challenging definitions of ‘nature’. The project emphasises that nature isn’t just pretty pastoral landscapes requiring walking boots and a car to access – it’s the stuff living all around us. For us, Great Yarmouth’s streets, buildings, places and culture are central to this.
Yarmouth Springs Eternal brings the perspectives of those with lived experience of homelessness and migration into conversations about ‘nature’. Last year the project featured a community programme of artist-led workshops with adults connected to Herring House Trust (a group for single, homeless people) and GYROS (a group that supports migrants and culturally diverse communities) and a public exhibition with open-to-all free events, including a conference, artist-led walks, printed folded pamphlet and a resource booklet on creative walking activities by the participating artists.
In the second year, the project authors took a different approach to the first year of activities. With a mix of returning and new participants and facilitators, they nurtured their roots and built valuable space for reflection and evolution throughout the process. Growing from long relationships with the people connected to the project, the group has developed to make space for unheard voices and those with an interrupted connection to ‘home’ or place. The relationship between these life stories and self-seeded plants growing around town has become a symbol of respect for all lives and journeys. The group has also been recognising the difference between gardened and wild, valued and neglected, and how this mirrors particular social conditions too.
In 2022, the group took part in a series of workshops, welcoming an inspiring team of visiting arts and ecology practitioners who brought their own perspective on engaging with the natural world through arts, science and wellbeing approaches. Inspired by the ideas and approaches presented by the visiting practitioners, the community participants co-designed and led a series of free events for the public, organised during the Creativity and Wellbeing Week in May.
Some reflections of the group members:
- “To compare to last year, I feel more confident. It’s so important to share knowledge and experience with others. I received so much positive feedback” (Sara Moreira, reflecting on leading an event for the public).
- “After the first Yarmouth Springs Eternal, I was really looking forward to the next one. This year has exceeded expectations. This group has helped me to create space in my head to appreciate the spaces around me. I enjoyed hosting a session” (Russell Hughes, reflecting on the whole programme and leading a public event).
- “Six years ago, when I was in the depth of depression and addiction, I would never have thought I would be leading a group. It has really boosted my confidence, and inspired me” (a participant, sharing their personal journey with pride after leading a public event).
Through the programme, the group explores what living/working in Great Yarmouth means – whether people are here through choice or necessity – and continue to explore the symbolism of Spring unfolding, plants growing in neglected or overlooked places, and bleak spaces becoming beautiful with the presence of abundant life. The experience this year has been turned into a short film produced by filmmaker Becky Demmen of Supporting Your Art.