A coast to be proud of

Discussing the Mythic Coast project on Cleveleys promenade, are from left, Gareth Thompson, Stephen Broadbent and Andy Darby.
Discussing the Mythic Coast project on Cleveleys promenade, are from left, Gareth Thompson, Stephen Broadbent and Andy Darby.
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Blackpool has its Great Promenade Art Show, Morecambe the Tern Project, and Southport the Moving Fish art and light works on the seafront.

But stand by to be blown away by Wyre’s Mythic Coast – a land of petrified trees, lost villages, shipwrecks, deep pools, colourful characters, and eerily evocative names such as Lune Deep and Wyre Light.

This will deliver a series of sculptures, six initially – a Sea Swallow Beacon, Golden Shell, Fylde Coast shipwreck memorial, Princess Mary Driftwood, Whirlpool Listening Shell and interpretative art – from Cleveleys through Rossall to Fleetwood, and beyond, to the Wyre and estuary inlets.

All were approved for planning permission by Wyre Council this week, considered integral to the ongoing sea defences which have transformed and regenerated the stretch of coast, initially at Cleveleys, but working through Rossall to Fleetwood.

The £200,000 budget, small fry for the scale of the project, comes from the wider budget of £1.85m long approved for improvements to the coast (including redesign of Marine Hall Gardens, public artwork and a new Rossall Point observation tower).

The pot is made up of a Government grant under the Sea Change programme, Wyre Council funding and a private donation from the local Lofthouse family.

There will also be a book, written for children but also to be enjoyed by adults, to celebrate the multi-award winning achievement that is Wyre coastline.

The very fact that the project is proceeding apace is testimony to the commitment of Wyre Council and the artists involved.

Most realise that such an ambitious scheme would have never got off the ground in today’s economic climate. Indeed, the editor publishing the allied book for the summer, on behalf of Lancashire literature agency Litfest, has just lost lifeline funding from Arts Council England for the annual literature festival in Lancaster.

The cut doesn’t affect the Wyre project, which has a different funding source.

Litfest artistic director Andy Darby says the Arts Council blow is to Litfest specifically.

“We are committed to the Mythic Coast, heart, body and soul,” he adds.

“What’s happened elsewhere is not a reflection on the value of our work, but of the changed priorities and demands being made of and by Arts Council England. But we will go on. It’s just another challenge.”

What is engaging about the Wyre Mythic Coast scheme is it has involved locals every step of the way, from having a say in the shape of sea defences, and the fact they should incorporate art, and appeal aesthetically, through to ongoing work to involve people of all ages in learning about the history of that coast, and the folklore of the area.

Critically-acclaimed Cumbrian children’s writer Gareth Thompson has been flooded with suggestions for his book, and there’s been no shortage of inspiration for the illustrator either, drawing on names redolent with meaning, Lune Deep, and Wyre Light. And, yes, there really is a petrified forest out there.

“I was just overwhelmed by the information that came in,” Gareth admits.

“People are just so pleased to contribute. The coast has many treasures and so much to inspire. I’ve gone from thinking where do I start to how do I finish.”

And another book could be in the pipeline. Provisionally named Between the Moon and the Earth, the book is the big treat to come for kids, for summer, with readers encouraged to interact with elements.

“But what it really, really needs is a splash of colour,” said a young chap charged with checking out the artwork submitted for consideration for Cleveleys’ Mythic Coast project, which provokes a guffaw of laughter from the creative talents assembled to steer it through to reality.

They’re on site, at Cleveleys seafront, for an update on the project, and a glimpse, barred to the public, of those all important illustrations.

The storyline is also under wraps, but it is an adventure, featuring a young heroine, Mary, and an ogre, who inhabits Lune Deep.

The winning artist has transformed the stark drawings in her portfolio into a thing of beauty – still deliciously dark but with that splash of colour.

Hannah Megee, 28, from Totnes, Devon, wowed judges with her creative flair, and, as Gareth puts it: “Instant empathy.” Together the team will develop stories, illustrations and events to inspire and enthuse local people and visitors to appreciate not just Cleveleys, but all of the Wyre coastline.

The designs have helped inspire the sculptures by public artist Stephen Broadbent, who designed the award-winning ‘People’s Promenade’, and helped persuade council chiefs to make it so much more than mere functional sea defences.

“We could have ended up with a Berlin Wall-style design which would have done the job, but would have looked awful, and nobody wanted that,” he adds.