Andy Evans / Richard Earland / Tracey Falcon

How do we re/create cultural value by making new connections between land, sea and people?

How do we engage the Yacht Club in ways that they have a sense of ownership in the project?

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    Our event went off really well on Friday and Saturday evening at the Yacht Club. The only major set back was the weather. It couldn’t have been much colder and the sleety snow and freezing wind made it impossible to project onto sails on boats on the beach.
    We had practised the evening before projecting onto one boat just outside the yacht club but even that was dodgy and the next evening the weather was much worse and a decision was taken to rig some sails up at the back of the awning on the deck outside the yacht club.
    The billowing wind buffeting the sails did give the effect we were after though, which was a moving image onto moving sails.
    We had some fantastic help setting up from yacht club members and lovely comments throughout…. not only lovely comments though, there were those who still really didn’t get it, or didn’t want to say they got it but they were still outside in the snow in February offering their opinions and I think that counts for a lot!
    Prosper have asked for this final posting of the ‘Experiment’ phase. I think I have covered the requirement for blogging ‘actions’, next on the list is ‘capacity building’.
    This is an easy one for us at this stage. Our work is becoming more visible both within the yacht club and in the wider community. Having the horse printed onto a sail is a real eye catcher when it’s out and we are looking forward to seeing it properly out on the water when the sailing season starts in a few weeks. As mentioned in an earlier blog the sail is also going to appear in Hasting Yacht Club’s newsletter.
    The sail and work in the Horsebridge Centre is generating discussion and we have posters and postcards outlining our work and our ambitions. We have had an article printed about the project in the local paper and I have received texts and emails as a result of this.
    The sail is going to be at the RYA Dinghy Show in Alexandra Palace this weekend where we hope to further raise the profile of what we’re doing and to attract some sponsorship and partners for further work.
    Early discussions have indicated that other yacht clubs in Kent would be willing to sail with printed sails so hopefully our ambitions for a touring floating art gallery are becoming more possible.
    I have put in one funding bid so far and am exploring others. I have also managed to get the project some mentoring through Blast Theory’s Digital Ideas Camp and I chatted to our new mentor for the first time this week.
    ‘Collaboration.’
    We ran. We experimented. We threw ourselves wholeheartedly into this phase and now we need to breathe, reflect, take stock and be very clear about our immediate and longer term plans and develop a manageable strategy to achieve these.
    Our biggest challenge is capacity. We are all busy. There is so much work which could be done and even though we have identified specific areas for immediate development it seems that we have quite a mountain to climb to achieve these.
    We have laid the groundwork. We have a mentor for the next few weeks. We have an evaluation/reflection meeting planned.
    The 3 of us have worked well together for the main. Varying availability and being used to working independently has made certain parts feel like treading on uneven ground but we’re still talking!
    Collaboration with the yacht club needs work. Richard has been amazing and has rallied a great team of interested, generous and helpful people. There is still a lot of scepticism and a bit of animosity. But there is mostly a lot of potential. It’s an unusual situation in that members go to the yacht club to sail, mostly nothing else so why should they engage with an arts project? Some aren’t even local so connecting with the local community isn’t a priority for them.
    I still firmly believe that the project has a lot to offer the yacht club and the yacht club has a lot to offer the project and the wider community. I think that this next phase will show that.
    If we can attract the funding we need to achieve our aims then we will be able to show how community can connect to place in a different way, by just showing people what already exists. If we can then share this around the coast we are opening other doors.
    For myself as an artist, I am keen that we raise the profile of the creative industries in Kent. I am also keen to explore the experience of the collaboration and the new access to sailing and all the associated paraphernalia that surrounds it. Then there are the associated industries. In my studio I have a huge palette to play with.
    ‘What Prosper means to me so far’
    The beginning.

  2. Andy Evans says:

    … And the wind grew stronger and with it came snow…
    … And in that storm we managed to just pull off our round-off event for the Prosper Experiment.
    The challenges of February’s weather did necessitate the scope of the evening to be reined in – from the planned images and film projections across the sails of a number of yachts sited on the beach – to become the same projections across a series of sails lashed to the walls of WYC’s marquee looking onto the beach. Alongside this Richard and a competent crew rigged a land based ‘Laser’ with the White Horse artwork on the sail to view. And inside the warmth of the club house, a ‘discussion’ table was spread with aerial photos taken during the project.
    Numbers were predictably limited during the evening, but those who made it did stand outside regardless and enjoy the experience of the sound enhanced projections. And meanwhile the warmth of the club house brought about some very interesting and meaningful conversations on the theme.
    The night’s large challenge from the WH team’s perspective was the weighing up of the quality of the experience offered an audience alongside what was achievable in the harsh weather conditions. And this event was only possible due the rigorous attention to safety through the evening and the shared professional conduct of artists and sailing experts in the continued risk assessing of the changeable weather situation. All had to be prepared to let go of an exciting idea in the face of adversity, and bear in mind that this is an experiment testing the scope, robustness and adaptability of an idea in the true reality of the day.

    Alongside this, the final stage of the Experiment has also been generously supported during this last fortnight by Whitstable’s Horsebridge Centre, who have been hosting the White Horse sail with associated art works, for public viewing in their central stairwell area. This show case has always been planned to work jointly with the live beach event, but on reflection has also acted as an underwriter to ensure a solid round off to the project, in the event that the live event hadn’t come off. This has given much food for thought for the structuring of any future ventures of a similar nature…

  3. If the wind get’s much stronger, and our sailing partner says it will, i think it may be possible to hear the high pitched twang of the very taut strings we’re are all hanging on by this week!
    There have been many times when we have wondered if we have bitten off more than we can chew in this project but something is driving it onward. It almost has a life of it’s own.
    This week has been really busy and amazingly exciting.
    The sail arrived a week ago and the following day Richard set it up on his boat. Within minutes of it being out on the beach it had been photographed by a lady from Germany along with photos of us too, to be shared with her friends at home. Then along came 2 sailors from Hastings Yacht Club who are going to feature it in their next newsletter. The light was fabulously Whitstable and we got some great photos. It was too calm to sail but Richard insisted on taking it onto the water and I took some cunning photos which I think managed to hide the fact that he was millimetres from the shore!
    On Monday Andy and I installed some flags made from an old sail which I had printed some of our images on at The Horsebridge Centre in Whitstable to showcase some of our activities. We also installed some sailing batons covered in text provided for us by Richards daughter Libby.
    On Tuesday Richard and I installed the sail through the stairwell at The Horsebridge.
    On Wednesday I took delivery of the super intense projector Andy had organised and we all cracked on with editing our film/footage for the projection on Friday and Saturday at the Yacht Club.
    Today, Thursday We made it into the local papers! Also tested the projector -outside the Yacht Club, this evening in snow flurries?! It looked amazing. We only had one sail outside this evening and the way the film bled out onto the wall and roof of the neighbouring sailing school made some of the boats in the film look as if they were sailing off up into the sky – beautiful.
    All is looking really positive for tomorrow apart from the weather, and maybe our nerves!

    Arts Sail 12

    Arts Sail 6

    Arts Sail 18

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  4. It’s a very exciting time. I have created a piece of work to be printed onto the sail. The sail (kindly organised by Richard) has now gone off to the printers, and I am slightly nervous about how it will work out. Having to consider a design to fit onto a 6m x 3m surface is one thing but when that design has to work at a distance when the sail is out at sea and also has to work close up when it is displayed on the beach or at an exhibition, has been a huge challenge. The team love the design and fingers crossed that it translates well onto a very expensive sail!
    We will install the sail and some other teasers to flag (sorry – these sailing puns just fly off my keyboard) up our project at The Horsebridge Centre on Monday 18th February and they will be exhibited until Friday 1st March.
    On Friday 22 February we will project some of our work onto a wall of sails on the beach outside the yacht club. Andy has been busy organising a suitable projector and all of us are editing away. I am really looking forward to seeing what we all create. Richards daughter Libby has become involved too, as an English Literature graduate, she is looking at some text to contribute to our Horsebridge exhibition and perhaps also create some footage for our projection. If the weather is terrible we will project from inside the yacht club onto the marquee covering the outdoor deck. Both should be very visible to passersby and this is a tester for how we continue to share our work with the wider community. Members of the yacht club are beginning to show greater interest and even ripples of excitement as our sharing events approach.
    We have huge ambitions and have begun to apply for both funding and sponsorship so that we can take our project forward. Hoist the…..

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  5. Things are moving forward with the sail design being finalised, film footage being edited and funding bids written to enable the project to move forward. A very busy time with White Horses galloping forward.
    We will be at the Horsebridge Centre in Whitstable next month and will have an event at and around the yacht club too.
    We will keep you posted…….
    We welcome interest from any outside parties, so do get in touch.

  6. Andy Evans says:

    December-January Horse Trails

    The WYC race season finished with a flourish in mid December – photographed by the airborne Bond style White Horses team (minus 1!), the helicopter wasn’t just noticed by the sailing population, but caused a ripple of curiosity across the town!
    I unfortunately had pre-booked myself on a London Christmas gathering with friends, but the text messages rolled in through lunch…
    11.40 “Clear skies, good sailing breeze, all set!”
    12.01 “Just arrived at Manston!”
    13.05 “We are in a Black Jet Ranger. Rear right door is off!”
    13.47 “Preparing to take off.”
    14.59 “Have landed, it was FANTASTIC!”
    … somehow, sitting in a Michelin star restaurant just no longer quite cut the mustard! So my apologies to my lunch friends, for being slightly pre-occupied through a very delicious festive gathering.

    While the White Horse trail was still hot, the team put on a Friday night photo sharing event at WYC HQ, which attracted a surprising number of club members. And though we expected an interest from members in seeing the race photographed from an unusual viewpoint, we didn’t expect the range of animated debate that was sparked off. Discussions repeatedly frothed up over the beers, from friendly challenges of questionable sailing tactics used, to the aesthetics of aerial landscape photos vs. aerial compositions of sailing yachts! With members allowed to take a photo home with them, choices soon caused a stir, particularly between couples!

    To round off the ‘gathering’ stage of the project, the team settled into an early January work/eat session; reflecting on recent events, raw material produced and potential creative work that could come from this. Inevitably this produced more scope for the future, but importantly we distilled what could be achieved practically in the remaining time of the experiment.
    Our aim is to put on a round-off sharing/ celebration event with WYC members in mid February. This will take the form of video projections onto sail cloth, either internally or externally to the WYC dependant on weather. And alongside this we are looking to also create an exhibition of the aerial photos taken, venue to be confirmed. So…
    Watch this space…

    Cultural Capacity Building
    The feeling of involvement and co-operation from WYC initially came about through the common interest in sailing and the Kent coast. But while coming from different perspectives, our interests crossed over through amicability and curiosity of each other’s knowledge bases. It is a very sociable environment to be a part of, with its membership made up from a real cross section of people and diversity of professions. This in itself has generated unexpected opportunities, where difficult photographic challenges have been resolved due to the generosity of resources from both the club and its individuals.
    Now that we have collected unusual and high quality photographic images, there is a new interest from club members for exhibiting work themselves, using their business premises as a portal to the local public. This is all generating a new awareness of WYC within Whitstable and reaching people who would not normally have a window to sailing experiences from a sea or air perspective.
    We are also currently pursuing an exhibition presence in Whitstable through The Horsebridge Centre. This would be concurrent to the project’s round-off event at WYC, which with weather permitting will also have a public element to it through potential image projections onto external surfaces.

    Collaborations
    The quality of relationship between the White Horse team members internally, and with members of the Whitstable Yacht Club, has been very strong on ability to listen to each other and act for a common good! I think this is where working with a very clear brief or ‘set of experiment questions’ has kept everyone’s focus on the project’s purpose, where the end result is inevitably a result of the process, even if it is not clear until the final pages of the chapter…

  7. The Prosper Team have asked for reflective responses to the following:

    1. Activity – what have you been doing?

    2. Cultural Capacity Building – In relation to your theme what are your reflections around this?

    3. New Collaborations – What are you discovering through this new collaboration?

    Responses:

    Activity – I have been blogging fairly regularly updating on our activities. Essentially we are looking at Whitstable Yacht Club, sailing, and the local area from different perspectives. Our aim is to connect people to place by highlighting various aspects of the locality from alternative viewpoints. In this case we have used aerial photography in order to give members of Whitstable Yacht Club the chance to consider their activities from an altogether different angle. We have also taken many other photographic views to explore how these might be used in the future and also to connect the activities of the Yacht Club to the wider community.

    Cultural Capacity Building – Aerial photography is quite a draw. Hovering helicopters draw attention from the general public. The thought of having yourself photographed during a yacht race is very appealing for the sailors. Taking photographs from the air is massively exciting for the photographers. It’s been a great community building and attention grabbing activity.
    Our project has attracted lots of interest. We are talking to people from the Yacht Club and beyond. We have identified scope for a much wider range of activities. We have been asked to carry out education workshops and although we don’t have sufficient funding or capacity for this at the moment there is a lot of material from which education resources and activities can be drawn.
    Whilst the first part of the experiment was purely experimental, from this we identified specific activities through which we could engage wider audiences.
    On 5 January we held an event at Whitstable Yacht Club which drew at least 40 enthusiastic people, many of whom have signed up to remain informed/involved in the project.
    On 22 February we will hold another event at the Yacht Club which will hopefully be outside (weather permitting) and therefore attract the public too. More details available soon.
    From 18 Feb to 3 March we will be exhibiting some of our work at our local community centre, The Horsebridge. This will enable the wider community access to the project, and will enable us to signpost the event on 22 Feb, also the event on 22 can signpost to the exhibition.
    We already have some plans for the next racing season and are considering our funding options for this.
    One of the main highlights of the capacity building consideration is the warmth and generosity of members of the yacht club. There have been many offers of resources, moral support, practical support, massive generosity in enabling 2 aerial photography sessions, and huge patience in understanding that Andy and I might not know what the members are talking about when it comes to sailing and all the associated activities (and their different perspectives on things like sea and weather).

    New Collaborations – I think I was ahead of myself above and may have addressed this somewhat. It has been amazing. From one chance email with an incredibly vague idea we have met, worked with and planned activities which stretch way into the future with the most amazing bunch of people.
    If Richard hadn’t been as adventurous, as much of a risk taker or intuitive enough to know there might be something in this, then nothing would have happened. Indeed as an enabler he has been key.
    There is trust between the 3 of us. It seemed plain sailing (ahem) at first but as the activities intensified it hasn’t been as straightforward. Time constraints and location mean that it is easier for one or some of us to access the project activities. Couple this with the fact that we have been incredibly ambitious, there are huge calls on our time. We see a future I think and that’s what drives the effort.
    The collaboration isn’t confined to the 3 of us. There is a whole yacht club, oh and yes, we are aiming to link the club to the town, not forgetting our aims to place all this within Kent…..
    All this needs to be managed and one of the challenges is to allow sufficient time for our own development and fun rather than allowing the project management elements to take over.
    Whilst Richard notes that his project management background is left outside, the arts project management, even if it may appear less formal, is firmly in place.

  8. Richard Earland says:

    Patterns at sea

    As the Whitstable Yacht Club representative in this collaboration (and not coming from an artistic background) it is probably a good time for me to reflect on the issues and experiences arising from our collaboration since October 2012.

    I think I once said that the initial approach by Tracey and Andy was ‘deliciously vague’. They initiated a conversation about new collaborations, and wanting to explore the opportunities created by artists working with the Yacht Club. They were very open to ideas the club itself might have for the experiment. This led to further conversations about aerial photography, exploring the space around Whitstable Bay and printing art onto sails. The Prosper workshops created an opportunity to meet with and explore ideas emerging from other ‘new’ collaborations and further refine our ideas. The fact that we framed a question about “how to engage the Yacht Club…. giving them a sense of ownership” reflected a concern I had about making this something to be embraced by the broader members of the club (rather than a few who would be intrinsically interested in an art project, for arts sake).

    It seems to me that a key in the search for clarity over the scope of the experiment was to be disciplined about what we would do as against what we could do. The excitement for all three of us was driven in part by the endless possibilities that emerged as we played with ideas. My project management disciplines were left out of the room whenever we got together to talk about the elements of our experiment we would explore next. Discipline and structure had to be exercised in defining scope. Eventually we came down to three ideas; printing artwork on sails, aerial photography and some form of presentation to the club towards the end of February. (Despite this agreement I still find myself being sucked into more ideas and only yesterday I had a conversation about spending the day photographing a working fisherman at sea for eight hours in February).

    In terms of engaging the broader club members, it was the production of material – aerial photographs – that proved most beneficial. Once we had something to talk about all concerns about engagement evaporated. Not only did the act of taking photographs from the air engage and excite people the product proved to be electrifying. Yacht club members were not simply interested in seeing pictures of themselves and their boats; the new perspectives this medium offered fascinated them. When Tracey Andy and I shared the pictures with club members the interest was phenomenal. An event (viewing the pictures) that we thought would last an hour, lasted three hours and the anticipated 20 to 25 attendees turned into 40 (with another 10 asking for a second viewing the following week). There was probably more excited conversation about the long shadows cast on the sea by sunlight in December and previously unseen effects of wake and tidal patterns than there was about the technical aspects of close quarters racing. Indeed one of the most enduring surprises of this experiment so far for the Yacht Club is just how different things, we think we know well, appear when seen from new perspectives. One club member said, “I have been sailing for forty years and never seen anything like these pictures, they are very exciting.”

    My reflections of the experiment so far then can be summarized at follows:

    · Perhaps we don’t need to worry too much about having absolute clarity about our aims when trying to form new collaborations – clarity will emerge from the conversation with new collaborators.

    · Begin from the perspective that every one has something to bring to the table.

    · However, unless we are only interested in the journey (and I think most people wish to know where they are going) scope of an experiment has to be defined at some point.

    · New perspectives will create exciting new opportunities.

    · There is huge cultural value to be realized by making new connections between land, sea and people in the context of east Kent.

    · This value will be realized by allowing communities to observe the coast and the sea in new ways and feel they are part of creating the thing or locality which is the subject of that observation.

    · People can be engaged by process and/or by seeing artifacts – so far – I think artifacts (aerial pictures) have been more engaging than process in the context of this experiment.

    · We should not underestimate the appetite for art. Perhaps one way of tempting it’s consumption is to present the right appetizer. These experiments have made many people at Whitstable Yacht Club hungry for more.

    We cannot control the wind but we can manage our sails.

    • Martin Heaney says:

      Brilliant reflection Richard – fascinating insight into appetites for art and how they are stimulated, thank you!

  9. During the few weeks after the aerial filming, with Christmas breaking the process up, we began to view the material we’d captured. We have a huge stock of images and film footage collected over the last few months but these were some of the most amazing.
    Richard has an incredible camera and the quality of the images he took was superb. I put my trusted old camera to the test several hundred feet up and even that produced some impressive results.
    As we shared the pics, Richard and one of the yacht club members bounced tweaks of some of the images between them by email.
    There were aspects of some of the images which were surprising. The surface of the sea was milky and cloud -like in some shots but hard and metallic in others.
    I wondered where the surface of the sea actually was.
    There was a marked difference between the on screen and the printed image. Fairly obvious I know but studying these differences a little gives rise to all sorts of other questions and ideas for further work.
    I was finding the project a little frustrating at this point. We had so much material and I was really keen to have time to think about what we’d gathered and how to move forward. I wanted to take all this back to the studio and begin to look at some artistic responses. It wasn’t all about aerial photography for me. To be able to think about how this would develop my own creative practice. We had, however, set ourselves such an ambitious range of activities for the rest of the project that this was looking impossible. There didn’t seem to be time to reflect.
    As an experiment i had learnt so much. And although the period for the experimental activity was defined by the funded period, there is no reason why it should mean the end of the exploration. This could feed into my studio practice at any time. I am sure that the footage and images we have collected, the experience and the people will all continue to impact on me for a long time after the project has officially ended.
    There is also the fact that we have had to focus our activities to just a tiny percentage of the list of possibilities we initially (and continue to ) uncovered. If the Prosper programme seeks to encourage sustainability then this experiment can definitely tick that box! There is such a lot of other work to be done around our questions and experiments.
    The sailors who had sailed in the race on 16th were all keen to see the results of the aerial photography session. We decided to hold an event at the yacht club on 5th January to share the images.
    Andy had been busy for a few weeks and then ill over Christmas so we felt a little out of touch, Richard and I had been in contact a few times about the images and the event on 5th, so it was good to catch up with Andy.
    Well I thought it would be good to catch up with Andy but the evening was so busy that we barely had time to talk to each other!
    One of the members of the club had set up a looped slide show of some of the shots on the clubs TV and Richard had printed a wide selection of images at A3 size. We spread these across 2 tables and before we had finished setting up we were swamped with people clamouring to see the pictures.
    We had thought that we might spend an hour sharing the pictures but the evening stretched out and we finally packed up 2 1/2 hours later!
    Apart from early meetings, most of our other visits to the club had been during the day when the members were sailing. This evening the sailors seemed to be absent and an almost different group of individuals there instead. For me the barriers were down, no dry suits and high tech outdoor clothing, no talking in tongues of the days race, instead surprising conversations which stretched way beyond just the sailing aspects of the images. Discussions around how many colours could the sea be in a range of neighbouring photos. A dentist noted that the surface of the sea in one pic looked like a certain metal does under a microscope. I had wondered before if there could be a universal texture and had done some work on this at art college, we chatted about this too. We talked of the strange play on scale from above, the colours, lines, that some of the images looked like something else entirely – surely that one was a forest scene? -as well as who should have been where in the race and which boats were doing illegal manoeuvres (I think I learnt the sailing equivalent of the off side rule, I say learnt, but heard others talking about it may be more accurate).
    On an evening which would usually be very quiet at the club it being the first weekend after christmas and the new year, the whole room buzzed and estimates suggested that we had attracted about 40 people. Even the helicopter pilot came and was delighted with the images and the one we gave him to take home with him.
    It was an amazing opportunity to talk more about the project. We had the prosper website projected onto a big screen and a sign up sheet for members to join an email list for further information about the project and opportunities to be involved. Such a positive response.
    Although there wasn’t much chance for discussion this evening, Andy Richard and I would be meeting the following Tuesday for a full day of planning.

  10. Apologies for the typos in the last entry… and any which may appear in this. Enthusiasm and haste don’t necessarily make for great typing accuracy but I hope you are getting the gist!

    Alienation… nothing too dramatic and as a team we are open and honest enough to talk about such issues. Our decision on this one was to have a number of short edits to consider for projection which would vary from a documentary approach to whatever artistic paths Andy and I may choose to explore.

    This was parked as the last race of the season was approaching on 16th December and we knew that the UAV almost definitely wasn’t an option. We discussed other aerial methods and began to come to terms with the fact that we may have to wait until next season and revisit this aspect of the experiment.

    Things happen in this collaboration. Things happen because we have drive. I think things also happen because we are putting in a great deal of time and effort – at this stage voluntarily as we are caught up in the excitement of the potential. But… one aspect which continually surprises is the generosity, overwhelming support and interest of the yacht club members. We really seem to have struck a cord somewhere and the engagement process is working.

    In this instance we were taken to the air once more through the gift of a yacht club member who wishes to remain anonymous. This person offered to fund the difference between the cost of the UAV and the cost of a helicopter.

    Given that the last time one of the yacht club members took us up his private plane there was no wind and the planned yacht race couldn’t take place, there was a lot at stake. We had the helicopter for one hour so we had to carefully plan the timings to get the optimum views of the race which itself lasted longer than this. There was also the option to cancel if the weather conditions were either too rough for flying and sailing or too calm for the race. That in itself was a gift, if there had been a cancellation fee we may have had to reconsider.

    On the morning of 16th it was confirmed that we could fly and that the race would take place. Unfortunately Andy had a prior engagement so Richard invited his son, Daniel to fill the spare seat and man another camera from the other side of the helicopter.
    We arrived at Manston and were greeted by our charming pilot Brian. He made us coffee, took us through the safety procedures and discussed our aims and the optimum position of the helicopter. We would also be flying with one door removed so that Richard, suitably harnessed, could lean out of the helicopter to get better shots. Richards Royal Naval past is the reason that he would be the one to ride in this position. He is an action man whether or not he admits it!
    The helicopter was being brought over to us from another location with the door already removed. Brian was keen to confirm the time we would need to leave in order to capture the start of the race. As the leaving time approached the helicopter was nowhere to be seen and Brain was becoming visibly anxious. A couple of phone calls were made and assurances given. As the minutes ticked on Brian was becoming more anxious. Richard made a call to the race officer to see whether there might be a chance of delaying the start of the race if necessary. They agreed a final time at which the race might be delayed.

    Brian made another call. Richard needed to let the race officer know whether to delay as the cut off time was almost upon us.
    With assurances from Brian, the decision was made not to delay the race although there was still no sign of the helicopter.
    I think this is the most rattled I have seen Richard. It manifested itself in him walking away from the office and just standing quietly. Impressive, given what was at stake!

    We had blown it. The helicopter still hadn’t arrived and Brian was beginning to look defeated and deflated. Richard called the race officer to see if the race could be delayed but by now all boats had taken to the water and it was too cold to expect the sailors to wait. The race would begin as scheduled. We had no choice but to capture whatever footage we could.
    Finally the helicopter arrived. We watched Brian carry out all the required checks and then boarded. I was in the front and so excited as it was my first time in a helicopter.

    Earphones on, we took to the air. I can’t describe how I felt other than to say that I think I was born to fly. It was incredible, I loved it and determined to do it again as soon as I possibly could! It also resurrected an old ambition to learn how to fly one day.

    The vibrations were too strong to get much decent footage on the way to Whitstable and soon we could make out the small white dots of boats on the sea and the number 7 shaped whitstable harbour.

    looking at the position of the boats and being in text contact with the ground, Richard established that we had, miraculously arrived just as the race began! What is it about our luck in this experiment?!

    The next half an hour or so were spent with us capturing as much video and still footage as we possibly could. We had the RNLI out at our request again so that we could film the various wake patterns left by different craft.

    We didn’t speak much and Brian later noted that it was unusual for his passengers to be so quiet. I think we just knew what we wanted to achieve and were in agreement about our individual tasks.

    The weather was superb with the low light of the time of year adding to the fantastic images we were able to capture.
    We went back to the yacht club after the race and chatted to some of the sailors. All seemed very excited about the images.
    I was told that there were many more sailors in this particular race as a result of the aerial photography, and I also had the opportunity to meet different members and talk about the project and what we were hoping to achieve.
    Like the sailors, we were very keen to see the images we’d captured.

  11. Martin Heaney says:

    Brilliant blogging and inspiring photographs. I discussed your work today with students at University of Canterbury, Folkestone. It was a great stimulus for students to consider connections to local spaces and communities for their own work.

    • Thanks for your comments. We are having an event in february which your students will be very welcome to come to. Watch this space for further information.

      • fiona lesley says:

        just wonderful to read the story of that day – you could make the film of the filming on this project. Especially enjoyed your description of Richard’s stress management! I need a master-class from him on that one! Feb 22nd is the event at the Yacht Club – right?

  12. Firstly here, hopefully, is the picture Richard referred to in his last post.
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    And also another image from a completely different perspective.
    IMG_9453
    It’s the way we rollin this collaboration; with this view then that. In some ways the scope for experimentation and exploration is too vast, a little overwhelming. Focus and realistic ambitions for the remainder of the project are key.

    I think I’d wondered in an earlier posting about alienating club members – reaching a point where our interests and experience didn’t coexist effortlessly as they had seemed to at the beginning. We reached that point at a get together of all the Prosper projects in the beautiful Cathedral Lodge in Canterbury on 11 December. We had had a fruitful morning with many a lively discussion during which Richard was his usually self offering interesting observations and comments during whole group discussions. During a later, more detailed planning chat between just the 3 of us though he was unusually quiet. We were talking about video editing and Andy and I noted the similarities between the rhythm of some of the footage and music, we wondered if, instead of storyboarding, we might create a musical score for the film edit. We noticed Richards distance and asked him about it. He said that he was struggling with how abstract this part of the process seemed. I think we had come to our alienation point. The bit were we stopped easily understanding each other.
    The great thing about this collaboration is that we all ‘got’ each other. There was a serendipity to the flow of happenings, an ease with which we met and overcame challenges. What would we do now, when our working together as a team – the very core of what ensured the success of the project -seemed to be under threat?

    • fiona lesley says:

      differentiation and integration in the collaborative process – “there’s the rub” (shakespeare) and the rub is where things sometimes need to get to to break open new ground. Coming from a theatre background where you have the different specialisms of text, design and stagecraft, choreography etc I have experienced many journeys where those different specialisms/perspectives have to break from the comfort of united energy and ‘sit’ in their own rhythm in order to hone their contribution. It falls apart when the over-riding vision is not collectively owned or there is a lack of trust or commitment to the piece. Maybe this is where you have got to – you have enough shared vision and trust now to pull apart at times and allow your individual strengths and talents to flow as well as the team spirit?..

  13. Richard Earland says:

    Link to picture >>

    What could be simpler than aerial photography of a group of sailing boats racing? A reasonable thought, but this project has made us realise it represents some fascinating challenges. We have considered (and or experimented with) various methods including long poles, kites, trying to get an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) or drone in the air, and to date, only really had success with the expensive options of both fixed wing aircraft and a helicopter. Neither of these last two options would have been possible without the generous support of members of Whitstable Yacht Club but they have given us some very exciting experimental material.

    The least expensive option is putting a small camera on a long pole or a kite. Even the longest pole able to be man handled is too short – not really aerial, more elevated photography. Kites need a particular skill set to be flown, the wind needs to be in the right direction (not too much either) and there is little evidence of existing, stunning aerial photography of yacht racing where the camera platform has been the humble kite. Unless the kite is flown from a small boat the filed of view will be limited. Ensuring the kite gently kisses the dry ground (rather than dives at speed into the sea) with a camera on board is also challenging.

    Drones (or UAVs) are either inexpensive (toys) unable to fly in winds strong enough for yacht racing or so expensive (more than £50,000) that those who own, operate or insure them are reluctant to allow them to fly over the sea. Flight duration (which can range from 4 to 40 minutes), maximum wind velocity for safe operation, maximum carrying capacity and levels and thus costs of ground support are all factors that need to be considered. Add to this the need for Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) approval for some forms of drone flying operations; the threats to these platforms from off shore winds, seagull attack and financial loss of the craft if they crash into the sea and one begins to see why they are mainly used over the land for aerial photography currently.

    Even the costly options of private or commercial aircraft (fixed and rotary wing – helicopters) present challenges for the choice of platform and the piloting skills. Fixed wing light aircraft should ideally be of a design where the wing is above the person taking photographs with a large glass canopy that does not refract or reflect light. Flying above 500 feet with a minimum air speed – to avoid stalling – and the fact that the sea and the sky can in certain weather conditions look frighteningly similar when carrying out tight turns in the air, all call for an experienced pilot and quick photographic action. Even when using the most expensive option – a helicopter, there is still a lot to think about. The aircraft needs to be able to float (in the unlikely event of an unplanned landing on the sea) or if not of a floatation adapted design it must stay at no less than 600 feet and not fly over open water – so that it can ‘flutter’ down to the ground (rather than the sea) in a controlled way in the event of an engine failure. Cameras either have to be poked through windows or the doors taken off necessitating the use of a special harness and clothing for the aerial photographer who will be sat adjacent to an open space in the side of the chopper.

    The dictionary definition of an experiment:-

    “a procedure undertaken to make a discovery, test a hypothesis, or demonstrate a known fact”

    leads me to conclude that through this prosper project Andy, Tracey and I are definitely in the midst of a hugely challenging experiment.

  14. Beset by another UAV hitch… we had planned to film a race on Dec 2nd but this time the problem was that the UAV had crashed a few days before. Hmmmm.

    But we are never deterred in this experiment, there’s always something we can do and if we couldn’t get aerial footage of this race we would get every other sort of footage we could. Richard had the genius idea of attaching the Yacht Clubs gopro cameras to markers out at sea. The first was on a static inner distance mark and produced some wonderful shots of the race from sea level, the other was on a buoy and whilst the footage could make you seasick, the images really blew my mind! The sailors may be used to such views but I was mesmerised by the horizon which flexed one way and then another -concave and convex, totally unexpected and we may not have got this footage had the UAV turned up. Andy and I filmed and took stills from the shore. Whilst our equipment wasn’t that pro we got some useful shots of the race and the process of filming, albeit with fingers numb from the cold, enabled us to understand the race a little better. I also filmed the preparations on shore for the race and then the coming back in and packing up.

    The yacht club members were interested in looking at some of the footage on the camera and seem to be used to us being around.I was even asked to hold a sail at one point during packing up.

    General chatting at the club reveals an unexpected level of interest and understanding of what we are doing and our ambitions. In terms of building cultural capacity, the more connected we become with the yacht club the more our experiment seeps amongst the members and potentially beyond as they may contribute their own investigations and experiments. I have already been shown some wonderful photography. We have plans to share some of our findings at an event towards the end of January, yacht club members and beyond will be welcome.
    We also have plans to community engagement activities once we have explored some technical ideas.

    This collaboration is like landing in a strange country. The language is different, the activity is different, everyone knows things that Andy and I don’t. We are very much on the Yacht Clubs territory and it’s fascinating. There is so much to learn and so much potential for exploration and adventure. Between the 3 of us there is a huge amount of energy and drive. So far we have been enormously positive. The core team is tight and others are joining in. I wonder when the time might be right to invite some people to Andy’s or my studio? Or to talk about what we do? Perhaps we don’t need to, perhaps our eyes and thoughts are studio enough and very portable!
    I do feel though that it’s nearly time to bring something to the yacht club rather than just taking – like a sponge. Although there is a risk in that, how to meet the members half way so that our creative process doesn’t alienate them?

    Meantime, we have some technical issues to contend with… editing video footage and sharing is incredibly time consuming. We have got a huge job to do in producing a film for our public event.

    We’ve always said WOW about what we’re doing. Now, as Richard put it, there’s another wow – at the enormity of the technical challenges.

    • fiona lesley says:

      the colour shapes and light in this shot are breathtaking – it looks like a giant fin half emerging, or a fragment of gold in some kind of gold liquid..whatever, it’s not your average sea pic!

  15. Richard said… Huston, we have a problem.

    Less than a week to go until our aerial photography day. Filming a yacht race.
    The UAV company had a hitch with their insurance company who are insisting on CAA approval before allowing the UAV to be used over the sea. Richard tried to hurry this process along but it wasn’t possible so the UAV was postponed.

    We were all pragmatic about this. It’s an ambitious thing to do. BUT we were massively disappointed!
    We wracked our brains and Tracey made a call to a colleague in the film business who does use aerial photography but the time scale was too short and the costs too high to realistically be able to arrange an alternative.

    Richard shared the disappointing news with members of the yacht club. He then approached various members to see if they had any ideas of how we might still be able to film the yacht race on sunday.

    One of the members has a plane. On Friday he told Richard he would take him up to film Sunday’s race!!
    This would depend on the weather and the final decision couldn’t be made until Sunday morning.
    Friday and Saturday were windy, wet, stormy days but all fingers were crossed.
    Not a lot had seemed to be easy at this point. The odds seemed stacked against us. BUT there is something about this project, something about the way that we 3 work together. Something about the energy we have created which helps to drive the project along.
    On Sunday morning the weather was very different. It was a beautiful clear and very calm day. Perfect for flying and a decision was made to go up.
    There were 2 seats available. Richard was the best choice with his photography interest and more importantly his knowledge of the yacht race, he would know where to guide the plane for the best filming. Tracey couldn’t go up, she’d had a small operation on her back the day before and Andy very sweetly decided to stay on the ground and help her and take photos as she was still woozy from the anaesthetic!

    All were massively excited.
    But.
    The weather was too calm for the yacht race to take place.
    This would be hugely disappointing for the yacht club members who were looking forward to seeing their manouvers from the air, however there was still excitement and the RNLI went ahead with their training exercise so that Richard could film it.

    The results are spectacular and Richard had an amazing time!

    We will meet again in a few days to talk about next steps.

    • Richard Earland says:

      New Collaborations
      My twenty two year old daughter recently reminded me that – I may consider my self ‘artistic’ but I am not ‘an artist’. As the lead partner working on Prosper, on behalf of Whitstable Yacht Club, I have been fascinated by how many new insights have been presented. I also remain amazed at just how much fun and how exciting this continues to be also. This is no small way down to how Tracey and Andy have engaged the Yacht club as equal partners – keen to hear our ideas, and allow us to explore our (or at least my) embryonic artistic stirrings.

      After twenty years in the Royal Navy and having been a ‘Yachty’ and dinghy sailor for twice that length of time I thought I knew ‘The Sea’. However, working with artists has encouraged me to ‘see’ what is in front of my eyes differently; and it’s not just me. When mariners, and landsmen and women look seaward they will ‘see very different things’. But when anyone looks seaward with an artist alongside him or her, or through the work of an artist the richness of what we see expands massively. The way that J M W Turner represents ‘light’ at sea is a case in point.

      Our experimenting with areal photography recently produced an image (from a light aircraft) of a sandbank, from about 200 feet. Examination of this image by some local mariners, and the lifeboat crew has thrown up an intriguing observation. Those who know the waters of Whitstable Bay, like the proverbial back of their hand, had huge difficult matching the aerial image up with the sandbanks shown on navigational charts (maps). The simple fact is that they know banks by the ‘image’ created by an echo sounder or from a very low angle field of view; they never see them from the air. This is just one of many ‘new perspectives’ they this project is beginning to discover. Suddenly what we think is familiar is now intriguing.

    • fiona lesley says:

      loving the roller-coaster (or should I say tidal shift) reports on this project and well done all of you for the positive energy you emit that makes things happen against bureaucratic and climatic odds!! – looking forward to catching up.

    • fiona lesley says:

      again I love the undercurrent (forgive the pun) themes that emerge – how these technical image taking missions you go on throw up metaphors of life – near and far, new horizons etc….

  16. I am looking forward to see – sea this project. Best happens at sea too – Every time I see the sea just before the train approaches Dover Priory I feel happy! hope you like this Daniel Buren image and description

  17. Sunday is drawing near and we are all very excited about the UAV aerial filming. We are creating a storyboard to maximise the UAV time. I would really like to have some night shots of the lights, navigation marks and buoys but we’re not allowed to film in the dark, however… we could push for dusk?!
    Richard has been hard at work making local arrangements with the yacht club, RNLI who are also keen to be captured on film and will add to our palette with the different type of boat .Richard has also had to make arrangements with the harbour board to keep the public safe during the filming.
    Conversations and emails with the UAV operators have highlighted that seagull attack may be high on our list of problems! Perhaps we could enlist the help of our local Sweary Seagull although we may have to become part of his protection racket!
    Fingers crossed for appropriate weather on Sunday!

    • fiona lesley says:

      I absolutely love this – and great to read all your developments as they happen. It’s also lovely that it sounds like you are having fun. Already, your ears and eyes and conversations with people at the yacht club are generating a different and powerful sense of the sea. It made me think (living as I do in a relatively land-locked place) about the general sense of ‘near and far-ness’ that the sea provokes and how this is such a significant dynamic in terms of community and meaning in our lives generally. Looking forward to hearing more about what happens on Nov 18th.

  18. Continuing the logging of events:
    We have decided to take some aerial footage of a yacht race. This will engage the members of the yacht club as the footage could be a useful training tool.
    We will project the footage onto a wall of sails on the beach as another engagement exercise but also in the hope that the sails will billow to provide another dimension to the footage.
    All of this will go towards creating our ‘palette’. What does the sea/sailing offer in terms of materials to create a piece of art work?
    How will we achieve all of this?
    We investigated and came up with a few options: aerial photography by plane or helicopter, kite aerial photography (KAP), a UAV – unmanned aerial vehicle or drone, a camera on a mast extended from a boat….

    6 Oct Andy went to meet Gareth from Kent Kite Club. Gareth has been practising KAP – kite aerial photography, one of the methods we are investigating to get some aerial views of the boats at sea. The kit isn’t cheap and the technique to get decent shots takes practise. Perhaps we can experiment with this technique ready for next seasons sailing?

    13th Oct
    Tracey and Richard meet at Yacht club to talk about next steps and costs. It seems to be a case of can we afford to do the UAV option and how effective will the KAP option be with our inexperience of the technique? Richard had put up a photo of the artwork on a sail that Tracey had created as our web logo for Prosper. It was on a noticeboard in the clubhouse, there was nothing to explain what it was. This was beginning to generate some conversation…..

    17 October
    Tracey Andy Richard met with David and Adrian who are senior members of the yacht club – over a fish and chip supper and had a long meeting about how the project might work. Ended with a budget outline which shows that we can try both UAV and KAP! Set a date for the potential UAV filming. Did a project timeline, outlined press opportunities and opps for both club and community engagement. Action points for all were agreed and the yacht club agreed to fund the UAV up front if the Prosper grant hadn’t been received in time.
    Took our first team photo although without Richard… This is all amazing. Such generosity and enthusiasm from the yacht club.

    28 October
    The plan was for all to meet at the yacht club, look at a race and perhaps Andy could go out in a boat with Richard. (Tracey was invited out to sea too, but bad back prevents sailing at the moment!) However, we were blighted by bad weather and this is something we have to prepare for during this project.
    We have set a date for the UAV filming – 18 November! Even if the weather is as bad as today, the UAV will still be able to operate but there will be no race.
    We started storyboarding the film so as to maximise the UAV timings
    We met Charlie, one of the yacht club members, his input was very interesting. There is a wealth of expertise and opinion amongst the members. The more discussions we have the more possibilities present themselves. We took some story photos and video. Some by my 14 year old son.

  19. On 15th August the 3 of us, Andy, myself and Richard had our first meeting. We thrashed out the detail and began to get our proposal together. Richard had gained the agreement of the committee.

    22 September we found we were successful! Unbelievably amazing!

    26 September we met again at Whitstable Yacht Club. There was so much to see and learn. As darkness fell we stepped out onto the roof behind the Crows Nest and looked out as the Life Boat was launched. Richard explained what the flashing lights on the buoys means and why they are positioned there. We looked at charts mapping the position of the buoys.
    The patterns and reflections on the sea were beautiful and the wake left by the lifeboat was…. black.

    5 October
    The first Prosper Lab. How lovely to see all the other experiments.

  20. After finding that there was such a position as Sailing Development Officer at Whitstable Yacht Club I sent an email introducing Prosper, myself and Andy. 2 days later on August 5th I was chatting to Richard on a busy Sunday at the yacht club. He was unbelievably enthusiastic and ‘got it’ straight away! I explained the idea and the context of Prosper. Richard spoke of his interests re art/photography/sailing and the yacht club. We both left the meeting feeling excited and in agreement that with the yacht club committee members consent they would put in a bid. Richards first email after this meeting starting with WOW!