The Countryside and Cultural Change Conference

Friday 3rd December 2010,
Sainsbury Centre,
Garden Restaurant

Culture of the Countryside, the Sainsbury Centre’s ambitious outreach project, supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, have worked with schools and communities across Norfolk and Suffolk.

With our many project partners and participants, we’ve looked at everything from flint, brick, potatoes, music and horses to weather and forests.

For the closing conference, we explored the wider themes and issues around the changing contemporary countryside heritage, learning, creativity and cross-cultural understanding that have emerged through questions and discussion between schools, artists, and experts from within and beyond the University of East Anglia. The day included talks, discussions and evaluation of our discoveries, methods and achievements, and an evening of performance and celebration.


Review of Culture of the Countryside, summary of its methods and findings

Overall approaches (16:35, 16MB, MP3 audio) Dr Veronica Sekules, Project Director


Work with schools (9:50, 9MB, MP3 audio) Dr David Hulks, Curriculum and Learning Manager

(15:27, 15MB, MP3 audio)
Bee Farrell, Community Engagement Manager - Download text version

Some headlines
(24:16, 23MB, MP3 audio)
Patrick Yarker, Researcher and Evaluator - Download text version


12.00 – 12.15 Discussion & introduction to Panels

Panel discussions, each one considering a theme uncovered by the Culture of the Countryside project and explored as a result of community and school collaborations. Each theme has arisen from our explorations with objects with many participants and partners. We have learned as much from children as from adults. The point of these sessions will be to consider together the suggestions and the questions posed by each one.

Chair: John French, Director InCrops


12.15 – 12.45
Panel 1: Tradition and Innovation in Farming (29:35, 28MB, MP3 audio) 
Bee Farrell, Community Engagement Manager.

A starting point of art from local and global contexts led us to explore the a number of issues pertinent to the local small farm. We engaged in cultivation of the potato using the power of Suffolk horses, commissioned films and collaborated with UEA’s Incrops to consider the innovative potential for collaborations between arts, artists, commercial interests and science and invention.

 Questions: To what extent are there tensions or oppositions in the farming world between nostalgia and sustainability, heritage and modern technology? What roles might be played by art and artists in relation to agriculture? Is innovation only about the new?


12.45 – 1.45 Lunch

Chair: Andrew Watkinson – Living with Environmental Change


1.45 – 2.15
Panel 2: Local landscapes and the built heritage (28:10, 26MB, MP3 audio) Pat Yarker: Project evaluator.

Inspired by the materials, patterns and functions of our objects we have been looking at aspects of the hard landscaping of East Anglia. We have considered the ways in which we understand the landscape and looked at the importance of developing observational skills for environmental understanding. Participants have worked with clay and brick to understand the built environment and its technology.

 Questions: How does understanding the landscape and built environment contribute towards cultural identity? Why might understanding and experiencing both traditional and new skills required for a built environment be increasing in importance now?



2.15 – 2.45
Panel 3: Weather, climate, environment (48:32, 45MB, MP3 audio) 
Veronica Sekules, Project Director.

Examining how weather shapes art and life. We have looked at artefacts influenced by close attention to local environments and climate conditions, and have engaged in a range of creative interdisciplinary projects informed by weather experience, art and science, in partnership with numerous people and organisations.

Questions: Can sensitivity to local weather and an understanding of how weather has shaped ways of life around the globe help us in planning for responses to climate change? What role can the arts play in understanding and planning for change? How can children’s experience of the weather inform the larger climate debate?

2.45 - 3.15 General discussion

3.15 – 3.30 Tea

Chair: Rachel Quick, Headteacher, Freethorpe School


3.30 – 4.00
Panel 4: Festivities (1:04:09, 30MB, MP3 audio) 
David Hulks, Curriculum and Learning Manager.

Many of the objects we started our programmes with were created for celebratory purposes, playing an important role in festivities, whether secular or religious. Masks, staffs, dance wands, and spirit figures have inspired much thinking about performance - about dance, drama, music, but also religion and spirituality.

Questions: Do we recognise enough the role played today by shared experience of public ritual? Is performance relevant in forming identities and shaping cultures? Do we make enough time for performance in both school and community contexts? To what extent do festivities play a role distracting people from daily drudgery?


4.00 – 5.00 Project Director & chairs discussion & response – Rachel Quick, Andrew Watkinson, John French.


Evening programme

5.00 – 5.15 Arrival and registration

5.15 – 6.30 Keynote Lecture and discussion


The countryside and cultural change – from localism to globalisation.

Dr Sanna Inthorn, School of Political Social and International Studies

Respondent: Dr Rupert Read, School of Philosophy & Green Norwich City Councillor


6.30 – 8.00 Refreshments (more drinks and nibbles)

and celebration

To include:

Showing of Films made by Matthew Robinson and BBC Voices during the project

Including: FarmLand; Flint; Mundesley Encounters; Coastal Encounters;

Music & Dancing made and performed during the project.

Crownstreet Band; Rig a Jig Jig