A Sea Change – Art in Romney Marsh

This autumn a rich and scenic treasure hunt of art has been unfolding in and around Romney Marsh. It’s exciting to see contemporary artists animating the evocative, historic sites of the medieval churches of Romney Marsh, originally built for the isolated shepherd communities living out on the marsh.

Romney Marsh is an atmospheric place, all low-slung land, crumpled and tufted with grass, with yawning large skies above. There is an otherworldiness to the marsh, caught somewhere between sea and land. There is a sense of fluidity to the landscape – soft underfoot, criss-crossed by waterways, with a humble low-profile that doesn’t impose. The very place itself has a sense of space and airiness, a quietness that allows for clarity of thought, reflection and connection with the land.

The Art in Romney Marsh programming deftly responds to this mood and sense of place. It gently sites small thought-provoking interventions in and around five historic churches. Interventions that often draw a resonance between this permeable landscape and the many queer histories that run through it. Dotted across locations, I had a sense of discovery and exploration – a reason to traverse and immerse myself in the marsh, to spend time in this storied landscape, absorbing a sense of its people, its ecologies and its materials.

If you can, do visit on the last weekend of the programme, from 1-5pm on both the 8th and 9th of October 2022. Visit the AiRM page for all the details, including the all important postcodes and what3word locations!

And in the meantime here are some of my favourite moments from my visit.

View through window at St Mary in the Marsh
Ceramics by Rachael House exploring the varying assumed identities of local writer Radclyffe Hall, best known for her lesbian novel The Well of Loneliness.
The first of many beautiful portraits by Elissa Cray and Margate Pride celebrating local queer histories and iconic cultural figures.
An interlude of small ploughing museum, sited within
Giles Round‘s enigmatic interventions …
… both sculptural and colourful paintings…
and his installation of dried thistles in memory of Derek Jarman, also local to the area.
Poetic work by Madinah Farhannah Thompson the text reads: “and all the while, we are reborn”
… her beautiful words running around the edges of a box pew.
Another wonderful ceramic piece from Rachael House celebrating the words of Vita Sackville-West, the queer writer and gardener, often most remembered through Virginia Woolf’s writing of their affair, in the novel Orlando.
The beautiful St Thomas à Becket church at Fairfield, with the approach a track across open fields
Emily Moore’s painterly weaving evoking the shapes and forms of Romney Marsh
A landscape that inspires, tranquil, windswept and unique
A wonderful outdoor demonstration of hand-weaving techniques by the textile artist Nikki Tompsett. (Photo courtesy of artist)
The delicate geometry of Joseph Williams hand-bound structures.
The wonderful ‘Modern Nature Trail’ that accompanies the AiRM programme and can be visited year round, charting the intersecting queer lives of many historic local figures in the arts.