'Sense of Place' art project at Brean Down fort

A children's art workshop at Brean Down fort during the project in 2015

A group of artists, led by Donna Vale and Joy Merron, will be bringing the history and stories of Brean Down fort to life for the second and final installment of their 'Sense of Place' art project this autumn.

The aim of the 'Sense of Place' project is to respond to the stories of the people, landscape and the buildings of Brean Down fort; forming a connection to those who lived and worked at Brean Down.

Past histories will continue to be brought to life through the arts to capture the imagination of visitors. Brean Down itself is key to the work, with the profoundly dramatic peninsula and striking disposition of the buildings.

Walkers heading to the fort at the end of Brean Down
Walkers on Brean Down

By exploring place and identity, researching local stories and memories the artist team plan to create a visually appealing exhibition in a unique environment. The notion of belonging and the connection between community and place will create a distinct visitor experience of participation and engagement.

A two year project; last year's exhibition during Somerset Art Weeks (SAW) attracted around 3000 visitors to Brean Down fort. For the two weeks of SAW (3 - 18 October) visitors saw the Officer's Mess building transformed into a place of discovery, filled with thought-provoking pieces of art.

The diversity of the group of artists involved, both last year and this year, adds to the variety of art on display, all threaded together by a common theme. The fort becomes a place to discover and ‘happen upon’ long forgotten tales. Natural deterioration and weathering is a central theme to the display, incorporating wartime letters, photographs and the sound of conflict.

Explore the fort on Brean Down
Brean Down fort, Somerset



The art pieces last year ranged from textiles interwoven with narratives belonging to local voices, to a large animated Zoetrope to light the dark space inside the Officer's Mess. In contrast, large-scale installations such as an extensive ‘fishing net’ web of mirrored and clear acrylic, perfectly captured the flash of sunlight on fish scales, sea spray and rolling waves.

Several pieces explored the specific World War heritage of this part of Somerset; investigating the lives of those who passed through this unique landscape. Artist Jon England produced mixed media works using salt water collected at Brean, and displayed them in the room above the Cove Café at Brean Down.

This year the artist team are back to deliver the final year of their project. Always ready to take on a challenge, Donna and Joy plan to tie in with Somerset Art Weeks again, although for the duration of SAW 2016 (17 September - 2 October) they will present artists at work in the fort buildings, to compliment the 'Open Studio' focus of the art festival this year.

Pieces created during SAW this year will then be exhibited in the fort buildings for a further two weeks afterwards (3 - 16 October). By opening up the fort for the creation process, the artists hope to include visitors and the local community in creating the art work.

To find out more about the artists and their work, and to stay up to date with the art project follow their blog at http://www.breandownfort.wordpress.com or find them on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/artatbrean.

The artists will be running a series of five art workshops at Brean Down fort, on everything from watercolour painting to felt-making. The workshops start on 24 April, information about all of the workshops can be found at http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/brean-down/whats-on.