Projects: Under The Pier
An Arc speciality, one that applies to all our work, is helping the people to see things in new, interesting and useful ways, equally important in a successful masterplan or a truly engaging public project.
Reinterpreting the things or places we take for granted, giving people new ways to connect with nature on their doorstep… it’s this that has inspired many of the events and activities we have invented or run throughout our respective careers, Sandman Snowman, The Hive at the IW Festival, Big Bug Day and Pan Park Safari. It’s also this which gave rise to our new annual event, Under The Pier.
Under The Pier is perfectly Ryde! It focuses on its best-known landmark, easy to find, easy to enjoy, for all ages, and above all a celebration of something unique. The marine wildlife of the low-tide pier is found nowhere else on the Island and is sufficiently special to bring visiting biologists throughout the year. But UTP is not dependent upon specialist knowledge for its appeal – it is a celebration of place and character. It is an undiscovered world just yards from one of the Island’s busiest entry points and Ryde’s main streets and arcades! Being Under The Pier, the sounds, light and shade, make a magical experience. There are very few piers in the UK that have the advantage of Ryde’s long sandflats, making exploration possible. Combine this with spectacular sponge gardens and rich anemone fields that have sprung up under a 201-year old built wonder and you have a very memorable event. People at Under The Pier ’14 and ’15 still talk about the thrill of discovery, a familiar sight that became so new!
On the day, the Pier comes to life in a new and wilder way… with ecology, art and heritage to play with, we follow the tide out, sandpooling and hydrophoning as we go, returning to base-camp to record our finds… meanwhile back on the sand, there’s sandcasting and experiments with the Artcology makers and artists.
Each year, in the run-up to the event, we and our project partners commission Island artists to run a series of art workshops to help us decorate the Pier on the day. The marine wildlife images the children produced bring a splash of colour to the Pier above us, introduce everyone to the array of species they’re likely to encounter and then all come along on the day. Often, the families we meet through our green space commissions and wildplay work, such as those at Spectrum’s Lordshill estate, come too, making special visits to the Island to join in. Every year, despite drizzle, hurricanes and last year’s fog of 2-stroke from Ryde’s annual Scooter rally, more and more people join us Under The Pier to sandpool, sandcast and explore!
Each year, we compile a final species list from the event and send this off to support local records… collective citizen science that makes a genuine contribution to the Island’s biodiversity records. Images of the day, the children’s artwork and the species tally are then displayed in Ryde Library as an all-year round reminder.
Under The Pier was first sponsored by the Natural England/BLF-funded Natural Wight project. This year’s event is an extra-special as it’s also an end of summer celebration and very kindly sponsored by Vectis Housing’s Wild About Wight project and part of the Heritage Lottery-funded Down to the Coast programme. In addition, thanks to a grant from Ryde Town Council, Under the Pier will soon have its own microsite featuring photography by photographer Julian Winslow!
Under the Pier has been a great success each year, for biological recording, for community participation, for public enjoyment and understanding, and for the Island’s reputation… and about to spread to other piers and other places!