The Port Marine Public Art Programme, begun in November 1999 in Portishead, was an exciting and groundbreaking initiative for Crest Nicholson (South West) Ltd and Persimmon Homes Ltd (the Portishead Quays Consortium), and North Somerset Council. It was a major new mixed-use development on a regenerated brownfield site set around an old dockside. It was a ten-year project due for completion in 2010. It is important to realise that this was the first major participation in a Public Art project on this scale for all parties.
The Portishead Quays site originated with corn importation, and had a long history of industrial use such as a nail factory, a phosphorous works, and latterly a power station. It was also an important embarkation point for the ‘New World’. The old dock had extensive views over the Bristol Channel to Wales and the new Severn Bridge. Portishead Quays Consortium, in partnership with North Somerset Council, intended to create a Yachting Marina with a range of housing types, culminating in a Fishing Village.
A significant investment has been made to integrate landscape, public realm and public art in an overall vision in order to create a very special place by the Waterside – linking the town to its waterside once again. The development has been phased over 6-10 years and includes leisure facilities, two new primary schools, a new extension to the secondary school, library, an extension to the main High Street including a new supermarket, a new medical centre, and the entire infrastructure to support this growth. Within this major project the Portishead Quays Consortium were keen to make a commitment to developing culturally rich and sustainable forms of urban life.
Both the Portishead Quays Consortium and North Somerset Council were mindful of the need to create interesting ‘places’ for the new community to inhabit and come to ‘identify with’ and ‘share ownership’ of – the very special need to connect people with place.
Ultimately, the people who experience the social space determine its success or failure, responding to the context and leading to its sustainability. In a development of this nature it was therefore vital to pay due attention to the dynamics of interaction of people and space. The acceptability of the ‘breathing space’ is a significant factor in the quality of life of the community and its desirability as a place to live.
Key to the successful delivery of these aims was the quality of the landscaping, public realm, and the integration of the public art.
"When public art is mentioned it should be seriously considered. I really do believe it has made a real contribution to the quality of developments and to place making. I think the way we’ve done it seems to work at Port Marine and it would be a good model for the future." former Crest Nicholson (South West) Ltd, Design Director, Paul Talbot
"It was a brownfield site, it had a history of a lot of uses, so the options were to reflect some of those uses and to reference that history. To reflect the importance of the place which was the original creek and the reason why the town was built." North Somerset and Portishead Partnership representative, Teän Kirby
This website is created on behalf of Crest Nicholson (South West) Ltd and Persimmon Homes Ltd (the Portishead Quays Consortium) to mark the fulfilment of their commitment to the Public Art programme.
Public art was a requirement in the original masterplan submitted to North Somerset Council in March 1999. This was originally stated under the 106 Agreement when outline planning permission was granted on 31st October 1997 (Registration No. 95/0033). It was also a further requirement under the 106 Agreement (Clause No. 8.2.5 for Public Art) for the Ashlands (Reference 00/P/1844/OT2) when receiving outline consent on 30th August 2002.
The artworks as described on this website were commissioned and paid for by Persimmon Homes Ltd and Crest Nicholson (South West) Ltd in response to the planning requirements negotiated by North Somerset Council for the regeneration of this area of Portishead. This document formally indicates that these requirements have now been completed.
"Public Art is the end result of artists and craftspeople working within the built, natural, urban or rural environment. The best projects integrate artists and craftspeople’s skills, vision and creative abilities into the whole process of creating new spaces and regenerating old ones, to produce a visually stimulating environment and sense of place." North Somerset Public Art Draft Guidelines
Public Art Strategies
In response to these requirements two Public Art Strategies were also submitted to North Somerset Council on behalf of Portishead Quays Consortium by Robert Stuart Clamp, their appointed public art consultant.
1. The original Portishead Quays Public Art Strategy, submitted November 1999
2. The Ashlands and East Docks Public Art Strategy, submitted May 2003
"It was the first time North Somerset Council had a comprehensive strategy dealing with a large site." North Somerset Council’s Urban Designer, Kedrick Davies
Richard Dowding, North Somerset Council’s Strategic Projects Offi cer, in his formal approval of the Portishead Quays Public Art Strategy documentation dated November 1999, said “These are the most comprehensive and imaginative public art proposals related to a development project yet seen in North Somerset and will set the standards for others to follow.”
These two documents not only set out the aims, objectives and aspirations for the Public Art programme but provided a supportive framework clearly mapping the working process for its delivery.
Sections also defined and detailed the following areas:
The procurement of art, artists and commissioning
Potential selection processes
Writing artist’s briefs
Maintenance, relocation and decommissioning of artworks
Documentation and evaluation
Publicity and celebration
Managing the budget
A range of strategies for community involvement
It is interesting also to reflect on some of the original considerations and themes:
Artwork categories initially identified as possibilities included:
Public Realm Artworks
2.1 Incorporated into buildings and around buildings
2.2 Incorporated into landscaping, parks, etc
2.3 Incorporated into the walkways
2.4 Seating, lighting and street furniture
Images of Man of human scale
Community involvement / artist residencies
Establishing a Public Art Trail and legacy
To these were added later:
6. The production of a Public Art Trail Brochure, postcards, and the mapping of artworks
7. The establishment of a dedicated website in order to preserve and record the activities for future generations
"We spent quite a lot of time formulating a detailed strategy, but didn’t want it to become prescriptive; it was clearly a strategy of how to do something. It was an approach and a philosophy that was quite new ground for us." former Crest Homes (South West) Ltd, Project Director, Mark Hallett
Public Art Steering Group: A Key Role
The Public Art Steering Group was central to the management and delivery strategy. It acted as a focus for debate, dialogue and the establishment of strong community links.
A small core Steering Group was established, with membership varying over the duration of the programme from the representatives listed below:
Richard Briggs - Persimmon Homes Ltd
Christopher Cain - Crest Nicholson (South West) Ltd
Stuart Clamp - Continuum Arts (Chair)
Marcus Cole - Arts Officer, North Somerset Council
Kedrick Davies - Urban Designer Coordinator, North Somerset Council
Mark Hallett - Crest Nicholson (South West) Ltd
Sue Haysom - Portishead Town Council
Richard Keogh - Crest Nicholson (South West) Ltd
Teän Kirby - North Somerset and Portishead Partnership
Fiona Matthews - Arts Development Offi cer, North Somerset Council
James McMurray - Portishead Town Council
Paul Talbot - Crest Nicholson (South West) Ltd
Barry Walters - Portishead Town Council
The Steering Group met regularly and co-opted artists, members of the community, local historians and researchers, primary school teachers, the head of art at Gordano School, even a University of the West of England art student who lived in Portishead. In this way the community was increasingly informed and involved.
The Public Art Steering Group had a key role. Its functions included:
Managing the delivery of the programme
Devolved decision-making powers
Structuring the programme, making it credible and visible
Acting as a catalyst – the driving force for action
Through facilitation and mediation, bringing collaboration and partnership to the centre of the activity
Providing opportunities for a wide variety of artists including the mentoring of young artists
Creating an arena for dialogue/listening to fl ourish
Providing a supportive framework for all
Building mutual trust and confi dence
Encouraging and empowering the various community groups to participate – ‘inclusivity not exclusivity’
Recognising the value of the process as a shared educational experience for all the stakeholders; an organic process – ‘from the known to the unknown’
Instigating documentation and critical evaluation – timing/informing the future
Celebrating and having fun (enjoy!)
"It’s been one of the most constructive committees I’ve ever been on. It was amazing how unanimous we were, since we all came from such different backgrounds." Portishead Town Council representative, Sue Haysom
One of the most successful and entertaining aspects of the Steering Group’s function was to invite a wide range of artists to make presentations of their artwork and ideas.
Matthew Stein, Sue Lipscombe (of Cod Steaks Ltd)
Lucy Glendinning, Jon Buck
To Foster Ambitions And Exceed Aspirations
Probably one of the most crucial and significant factors in its success was the devolving of decision making powers by North Somerset Council under the arrangements of the 106 Agreement to the Steering Group which then could not be vetoed (exception on Health and Safety grounds) by any of the major stakeholders. This special protocol arrangement helped to create a framework of mutual cooperation and teamwork and was central to the success of the programme. All had equal representation and therefore shared responsibility.
It was decided to keep formal minutes as a record of meetings. The minutes of Steering Group meetings were circulated to members, North Somerset Council, Portishead Town Council, Public Art South West, etc, and were made available to the public in Portishead Town Library and the Folk Hall.
"The Local Authority agreed that the Steering Group would have consent authority, especially as their representative sat on the Steering Group. We had that mandate as soon as the Strategy was approved by North Somerset Council and that has been very successful in streamlining the process whilst maintaining confi dence for all." Former Crest Homes (South West) Ltd, Project Director, Mark Hallett
"As a County Councillor it has been a great privilege to be involved in the work of the Public Art Steering Group. Public Art, integrated successfully into the landscaping, has brought a sense of worth and identity, helping to anchor the new residents into this, their new community." Chair, Portishead Town Council, Councillor Barry Walters
Aims And Objectives For The Project
To contribute to and enrich local distinctiveness, uniqueness and identity and ensure an historical and cultural legacy for future generations, adding to the intimacy and enjoyability of a revitalised dockside realm, encouraging economic and sustainable regeneration.
To send a positive message into both existing and new communities, creating both desirability and a sense of shared ownership – ‘inclusivity not exclusivity’.
To foster good working relationships with the major stakeholders by bringing consultation, collaboration and partnership to the heart of the project.
To successfully implement the commissioning and process practices established in the public art strategy.
To give opportunities to professional artists to not only demonstrate their skills and vision but to relate to and express their response to the specific site, encouraging their creativity and innovative solutions with open opportunities within a structured and supportive framework.
To strive for the highest quality artworks within public places, both delivering on time and within budget.
To commission both temporary and permanent public artworks using new art/science technologies, materials and multidisciplinary synergies, thereby challenging and building new audiences for contemporary art.
To seek where appropriate strong ecologically and environmentally sound solutions.
To encourage educational/community involvement and interaction with the arts, extending and engendering enjoyment, an understanding of the world around us, and ownership of public spaces; re-engaging the people with their place.
To create a website and supporting documentation for the Public Artworks to bring clarity of information, accessibility and understanding to both the community and the visitor – a different but no less significant form of legibility.
Through the application of the Arts, bring additionality to the aspirations and quality of this regenerative programme.
Help to create a legacy for future generations respecting the nature, history and heritage of the past whilst leaving space for our contemporary ‘moment in time’.
"The artworks were actually an aid to enhance the legibility of the whole scheme." Former Crest Nicholson (South West) Ltd, Design Director, Paul Talbot
"This programme is an integral aspect of Portishead Quays and puts North Somerset at the forefront of good practice in Public Art Development. It will benefit local residents by enabling them to live in an environment that is visually stimulating and challenging, and which encourages them to engage in the arts in relation to the history and changing nature of the area." Former North Somerset Council’s Director for Development and the Environment, Ian Cooper
It was collectively recognised that the significant influences and benefits of public art might be:-
Cultural: improving the range, quality, identity and feel of the built environment – demonstrating a visible commitment to a broadly based and diverse cultural heritage.
Environmental: upgrading the quality of the environment and the engendering of pride of place among citizens, residents and workers – creating and enhancing a sense of place. The best environmental practices should be implemented.
Community Development: encouraging and facilitating local people to have a say and make a positive contribution to the shape, and subsequent care of their environment.
Economic: assisting the process of urban regeneration – rendering the environment and residential areas more commercially attractive, establishing the redevelopment’s unique identity and character in a competitive market.
Education, Training and Employment: creating opportunities for local communities, businesses and artists.
Spiritual: in the sense that we are presented with ideas and visual stimulus and can contemplate and encounter them in a gentle way whilst remaining in touch with nature and the elements. That non-material enhancement of the quality of life.
Marketing: public art produces high quality marketing material which can be targeted to specifi c market segments, eg. tourism, a not insignificant economic contribution to North Somerset.
Interpretative: putting over messages, information or signs – designed in a way that appeals to and enhances people’s reaction to places.
Heritage and Historic: informing on the past and reflecting the ‘spirit of the age’. Creating clues, signs and symbols relating to the heritage of place so it can engage both our eyes and minds, stimulating and surprising. Allowing people to place themselves in the context of history’s various time-threads.
Fun: making the quality of our experiences richer, and appealing to the child in us all.
It is interesting to reflect on how successful we have been in achieving a positive response to each of these original aspirational aims, as indicated in the following documentation.
"By making social space integral to the living experience, it engenders ownership and identification, thus contributing to a real sense of place – ‘people not public / place not space / homes not houses’."
Public Art Consultant, Robert Stuart Clamp
"The Port Marine public art programme always aimed to enlighten and illuminate, reflecting and referencing the past, whilst stimulating and challenging our imaginations and ensuring a cultural and historical legacy for future generations." Public Art Consultant, Robert Stuart Clamp
This website www.publicartportishead.co.uk along with the Public Art brochure (published May 2009) records the activities of the public art programme over the last ten years. It also demonstrates that the Portishead Quays Consortium, in collaboration with North Somerset Council, have fully engaged with the spirit, aims and aspirations established for this public art programme, and more than met the requirements of the 106 agreements and the original masterplan.
A cultural sea-change has washed through Portishead over the past decade. More than twenty world-class visual artists have created public artworks that respond to the town’s rich history and heritage. Contemporary and traditional, figurative and abstract, reaching to the sky or rooted closed to the ground; the resulting works are startling in their diversity yet united by a common exploration of people and place that embeds them in the local community.
This artistic renaissance has been precipitated by the creation of Port Marine, an acclaimed mixed use development, set around a new marina, that regenerates a disused brownfield industrial site.
From the mid-Victorian era onwards, Portishead enjoyed a global sphere of influence as ships from across the world carried cargoes to and from its deep water dock. These glory days faded in the 1980s when the closure of the town’s dockside power station forced much associated activity to a halt.
Port Marine has once again placed the docks at the heart of the town, a vibrant centre where people work, live and relax.
Both physically and ideologically, the public artworks link the existing and new Portishead. They celebrate many facets of the town’s history – its people, seafaring, industrial activity and even the famous Portishead radio station – and provide a unique and potent testament to the phoenix-like character of the site. The public art trail provides a cultural legacy that will inspire, educate and entertain generations to come.
This artwork trail is dedicated to the community of Portishead, past, present and future.
Robert Stuart Clamp
Public Art Consultant, Curator and Lead Artist
On behalf of the Portishead Quays Consortium and the Public Art Steering Group
"Public Art integrated into the extensive landscaping has helped create a unique and special place to live, here at Port Marine, Portishead." Richard Briggs, Managing Director, Persimmon Special Projects