Yesterday evening I decided to have a coastal walk in the cool of the evening - it had been a hot afternoon (not that I'm complaining). The Alt-Berg walking boots were already in Fiona and avid to go. I ate early and set off for Cuckmere Haven, intending to park at South Barn (above Seaford) and then walk down to the Haven from there. According to the apps on my tablet, the tide would be right out at sunset. I aimed to reach the shore about half an hour before the sun set.
Approaching South Barn, I noticed a couple of signs saying 'No Access To Peace Camp'. What's this? Greenham Common all over again? Would the shore be crawling with angry people behaving badly in the name of World Peace and Brotherhood? But the car park looked normal enough, albeit with rather more cars in it than I'd thought likely for 8.30pm on a Sunday evening. But then a good sunset always does bring people out to admire the pink light playing on the tall cliffs of the Seven Sisters.
As I reached the old coastguard cottages, a large collection of little tents came into view. Ah, the camp. But something was odd about it. No sign of peace protesters. Just a few young-looking officials in high-visibility jackets. And quite a number of ordinary people like me wandering about, taking snaps with their cameras. And voices, reciting poetry: but no sign of the speakers.
It was an outdoor artwork, an 'installation'. The sounds of voices were
recorded, coming from inside the tents, and when darkness fell a light
inside each tent would glow eerily. All set against the backdrop of the
Seven Sisters, the River Cuckmere, and the sea. I got hold of a leaflet:
As you can see, it was all part of the 2012 Olympic celebrations, I suppose an allusion to the ideal of world harmony expressed in sound and light. There were eight simultaneous and identical 'installations' like this around the country, and by chance I'd stumbled upon this one on its final night. Just as well. This was likely to be the only part of the Olympicfest that I'd want to see. As the light dimmed, it really did seem mysterious and haunting, a fascinating and surreal spectacle. There were lots of visitors. More and more came. Some simply sat on the ground, enthralled. Here are some shots that I took:
Obviously the thing needed guarding through the night. That's what the people in the yellow jackets were there to do. I spoke with two of them, a young man and a young girl. They had both been on standby to do a 'night shift', and would be there, with their torches and walkie-talkies, from 8.00pm to 8.00am, whatever the weather did. It looked however as if it would be a calm night.
The installation would look very strange and unworldly in complete darkness. I wondered if the recorded voices would be on all night. It would be a long and monotonous vigil if the sound were switched off.
I hoped someone would come along and give them hot drinks and bacon butties to keep them going.