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© Clare Whistler & Charlotte Still


Local artists Clare Whistler and Charlotte Still return to present a week of events around the theme of water, focusing on local ponds, during the week of 25-31 March. HOT’s Xaverine M A Bates provides the details.

For the past four years, Clare and Charlotte have been collaborating on an ongoing project about local water – and follow an organic process to find where the act of thinking about and being with water will take them. They describe their project as: “A water wandering: inquisitive, interactive, immersive, reflective, poetic, experiential, unexpected, spontaneous and flowing.”

Clare told me a little more about the project, noting that, “On each day there will be poems and songs – one even in a pond in a wetsuit! We also will actually build 2 ponds during the week: one in Pevensey and one at ONCA. Charlotte and I call it our 7 day durational art piece for water.”


© Clare Whistler & Charlotte Still

pon·der (pŏn′dər)

  1. pon·dered, pon·der·ing, pon·ders

To think about (something) with thoroughness and care

To reflect or consider



Waterweek’s source

In 2012, their first project, STREAM, was a search for sources of the River Cuckmere, inspired by a desire to discover the source of our drinking water, as well as a poignant memory they both heard at a funeral, of two friends meeting annually to walk from the source of a river to its mouth. STREAM developed to become a series of regular, contemplative walks to roughly ten streams and sources north of Cowbeech, East Sussex. Their findings and questionings led to the creation of the first WATERWEEK, a week-long free festival for everyone to enjoy and learn more about water. As part of the project, the artists invited a variety of different people, all knowledgeable about water, to present and create in an empty shop in Hailsham.


© Clare Whistler & Charlotte Still

During that week, a talk by Wealden Council drainage expert, local historian and walker, Graham Kean provided inspiration for their subsequent project, UNDERWATEREDGE, an exploration around the historic shoreline of the nearby Pevensey Levels. This led to the next two WATERWEEKs: the first held at Herstmonceux Castle and other venues around the edge of the Levels and the second WATERWALK, a series of walks and film evenings following the course of the river Wallers Haven, from its source at Penhurst to the sea across the Levels.

Ponderings about ponds

Last year, Clare had a pond built in her garden by Pete the Pond, a pond conservation expert and regular contributor to Waterweek. This pond and his passion have been the inspiration for WATERWEEK 4, where Pete will be hosting pond warden workshops in different places in East Sussex.

In addition, Graham Kean will be leading walks and Clare and Charlotte will be hosting evening, ‘Ponderings’ for people to come and discuss, tell stories, read poems, sing songs and reflect on PONDS.

Plus, Devi Lockwood, a poet / touring cyclist / storyteller travelling the world (mostly by bicycle) to collect 1,001 stories from people she meets about water and climate change – and who Clare shared a story with in December – is sending seven stories collected about ponds from ‘over the pond’ in the US, one for each day of the project.

Waterweek in Hastings


© Clare Whistler & Charlotte Still

For HOT readers, particular interest will be the events taking place in Hastings on Monday 27 March. Pete the Pond will start the day with a pond wardenship workshop at Alexandra Park between 10-12pm, during which he also hopes to have the park keeper there to talk all about the pond and park within a context of natural history and pond care.


Pete The Pond

In 2000 Pete the Pond became the official Pond Warden of his local area, Willingdon and Jevington in East Sussex when he joined the Pond Warden scheme initiated by BTCV and Southern Water to help save Britain’s ponds. He then began to build ponds and small lakes, as well as developing and growing native aquatic plants, which he now supplies as part of his pond service.

As well as pond building, Pete also renovates ponds, contributes to ongoing management of the ponds afterwards and teaches eco-friendly methods of pond management and how to deal with problems related to his clients’ ponds and pond areas. He offers seminars for schools and clubs on pond life – and the flora and fauna associated with ponds, which helps our children learn how important and significant ponds are to our environment.

For a year he wrote a blog on the Southern Water website and currently you can “Ask Pete” on the Alan Titchmarsh website.


© Clare Whistler & Charlotte Still

Pond Plan

The day will then continue with a trip to the pond on Battle Road between 1-4pm, where Clare and Charlotte will lead a talk about pollution along with some poetry. From there, the tour will continue to the pond in the Ore Valley DIY Regen area, where they hope to have a sound bath – a sort of ceremony of life to encourage new life to grow in the pond. Finally the afternoon tour will head to a new pond being built in Three Oaks: an eco pond being built by Pete for an environmental consultant.

During the evening, there will be a Pondering event at the Printworks (6-8.30pm), during which there will be a sound bath by Gabrielle Lewry and an offering by Yumino Seki’s Hastings Butoh group, which includes local performers Nicole Zaaroura, Thilaka Hillman, Kathy Bristoe, Mary Dawson and Clare Whistler. As part of the Pondering, Kay Syrad, local writer and poet, will be talking about her thoughts on ecology.

There will also be an exhibition of works pertaining to ponds at Gallery North, Hailsham (private view 26th March), which includes Hastings artists Nichola Bruce, Emily Johns and Glenys Jacques and Xaverine M A Bates.


© Clare Whistler & Charlotte Still

One important point to note is that the entire project is created through a gift economy, so they literally have to go with the flow – each participant donates their time and work for no monetary reward, of which Clare says: “It is about seeing what can be made when money is not part of the interaction and finding out that time and meeting people can make things happen. It does mean it really is about exchange.”

They are desperately looking for someone who could help to document the project – perhaps an art or creative media student who feels inspired to do a project about the week’s events, for which they would be fed, housed and materials paid for.

For more information about this inspiring week, which will lead you to reflect, consider and ponder about ponds and water, see the programme below or visit the Waterweek website.


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Posted 16:51 Wednesday, Mar 8, 2017 In: Arts News

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