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Simon Read

Senior Lecturer in Fine Art/Photography

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Simon Read: Alkborough Flats

Alkborough Flats

Drawing the Humber Estuary, 2012-13

A Map of Alkborough Flats and the Humber Estuary to explore the processes impacting upon the decision to establish a Managed Realignment Site

The commission

Simon Read's project A Map of Alkborough Flats and the Humber Estuary to explore the processes impacting upon the decision to establish a Managed Realignment Site (2012) was commissioned by the AHRC Landscape and Environment Programme as part of the Impact Fellowship. It directly connects to the commissioned soundwork Warplands by Professor Mike Pearson (University of Aberystwyth), and both Simon and Mike appear in the AHRC commissioned film Imagining Change: Coastal Conversations.

The artwork

Produced with the purpose of gaining an insight into the dynamic of the natural systems at work at Alkborough, North Lincolnshire, the map explores the conditions that drove the decision to realign the 440 hectare site as part of the Humber Shoreline Management Plan through the cutting of a breach in the flood bank in the autumn of 2006. One of the largest flood storage schemes in Europe, Alkborough Flats is now managed to encourage biodiversity and the development of a variety of different habitats including inter-tidal mudflats, fresh and salt-water reed beds as well as wet and dry grassland. The new wetland habitat has dramatically changed the landscape in recent years.

The work draws on information from site visits, contemporary and historical maps, Environment Agency reports, LIDAR data, and engineering drawings. ‘Julian’s Bower’, the turf labyrinth at Alkborough, forms a base layer to the work. Beginning with contours, Simon then added the surveyed depths of the estuary, basic transport infrastructure, drainage information and flood defences.

In the use of watercolour on paper, flow, permeability, porosity and liminality are values that are shared with watery environments. The saltings, mudflats and sandbanks are negotiable territories; their identity is fluid and porous. As a drawing they can be considered an extension of the sea on the flood or attached to the land on the ebb. Sticking to the familiar, mimetic formula of brown land and blue water, Simon used brands of tea and coffee at different concentrations for the browns, to which he added tobacco from a cache he discovered hidden since World War II behind the lining of the cabin on the Dutch barge on which he lives. Blue came as a present of woad and indigo from a friend.

Simon views his work as a valuable tool in discussing environmental change and management in a community context. The map might thus simultaneously be autonomous as an artwork and a vehicle for insight and information.

The map has been installed in the School of Geography at the University of Nottingham as part of the event Lincolnshire Landscapes on 16 April 2013. The event was built around the artwork created by Simon and the aim was to create a day of talks and creative practice inspired by the landscape of Lincolnshire.