Artists, arts professionals, academics and local authorities are set to gather for a unique summit meeting this month at the Eden Project to discuss culture-led regeneration and place-making in Devon and Cornwall.
The Creative Peninsula summit will bring together people from across the sector to explore some of the ‘stories of place’ that are often used to describe the two counties – and discuss how they might be refreshed and retold to overcome barriers to social inclusion, wellbeing and environmental sustainability.
This will include challenging some of the stereotypes of the South West as a ‘picture postcard holiday destination’, celebrating its creative strengths and international initiatives, as well as surfacing under-represented or marginalised histories such as those relating to the LGBTQ+ community and the region’s colonial heritage, including links to the Transatlantic slave trade.
Funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council and led by the University of Exeter, the summit will encourage the region’s organisations and creative community to work together with policymakers and form new partnerships and collaborations.
Over two days on 18-19th November, the event will draw speakers and representatives from the University, counterparts at Falmouth University, Tate St Ives, The Box, the National Trust, the Food, Farming and Countryside Commission, Wildworks, Queer Kernow and the Black Atlantic Innovation Network, as well as independent projects and artist-led initiatives.
“Devon and Cornwall are often represented as rural idylls, remote holiday destinations at the periphery of the country,” says Professor Tom Trevor, leading on Creative Peninsula at the University. “And this has gathered pace with the post-pandemic influx of people moving to the region from cities, bringing with them idealised notions of life in the South West. While it is indeed a beautiful part of the world in which to live, it is also an area with a complex set of challenges, distinctive to this rural context.”
As part of this process of network building, and ‘re-telling the stories of place’, the Creative Peninsula summit will explore a range of themes through its programme of talks and panel discussions, including Outdoor Cultures, Ruralities, Queer Peninsula, SW Colonial Heritage and the ‘Black Atlantic’.
There will also be a session to consider the creation of a ‘Parliament of Waters’, encouraging communities to stand up for their local bodies of water. Such a parliament would see representatives for rivers and estuaries – such as the Exe, the Tamar, the Fal and the Taw – meeting to “give a voice to water”, enabling conversations with other bodies of water around the world, and holding humans to account for their impact on the environment.
“The thin wedge of land that makes up the peninsula is geographically defined by the Atlantic Ocean, but also culturally, with its long history of sea-faring and maritime trade,” adds Professor Trevor. “In the wake of the pandemic, Creative Peninsula aims to celebrate the region’s distinctive landscape and Atlantic coastline, increasing access and exchange between urban and rural communities, while investigating its complex social histories, through community-engaged arts programming and cultural enquiry.”
Creative Peninsula builds upon the work of the Creative Arc initiative in Exeter, developed in partnership by Exeter City Council, the Royal Albert Memorial Museum and the University. It also extends the AHRC-funded project, Outside the Box, which asked how open-air performance might reconnect people with the environment following the peak of the Covid pandemic.
For more information about the summit and details of registration, please visit the Creative Peninsula website.