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  • Writer's pictureJudith Tucker

Working with the Grimsby Archive and creating a new Fitties community archive

We made three visits at the beginning of the project period to the Grimsby Archive where we were able to explore the materials donated by local historian, Alan Dowling, who we met shortly before he died. He left an archive of historic materials relating to the Fitties which we explored in a creative context. This included images and texts featuring the landscape and settlements, including plant and human life, taken over several decades. This is a vital resource because it is precisely the relation of environmental change and the climate emergency to class and privilege that Hideaway explored. With the help of Adrian Wilkinson of the Grimsby archive we were able to expand our archival explorations to include plans of all the chalets from the nineteen thirties and early twentieth century botanical information.

Materials from the Alan Dowling archive

Materials from the Alan Dowling archive

As with previous projects it was key that we worked through co-creation with the people who occupy and use the landscapes in question including chalet-owners past and present and local environmental experts. Through community outreach events, including digital and in person talks, invited archival contributions, extended interviews and walking workshops. Later in the project, we increased the understanding of environmental issues in a time of change in relation to issues of architectural conservation on the plotland.

Community donated image of a Humberston Fitties chalet

We held a two-day drop-in memory workshop at a chalet on the Fitties itself in October 2021. Over sixty local people attended, they brought photographs, memorabilia, filled in memory postcards and generously shared their stories. We dropped leaflets and postcards at every chalet on the site and many people contacted us with materials via the Facebook page or email. Others offered their time for extended interviews in their own chalets or homes. We are indebted to all those chalet owners, holiday makers and local walkers who participated in our project. They agreed to their materials being shared here, in the 2021 Visual Arts Centre exhibition, Scunthorpe and on the Projectfitties Facebook page. This page has become a second living, continuing archive, developing many of the themes introduced in Alan Dowling in his book Humberston Fitties: the story of a Lincolnshire plotland. Do = explore this page to see more of the images, memories, cards and conversations that ensued Many of these archival materials sparked our creative energies and these in combination with our current fieldwork walks on Tetney marshes and among the chalets, where we drew, wrote and photographed, formed the research materials for the project.

Archival inspired poems and paintings on exhibition at 2021 Visual Arts, Scunthorpe

We selected some of these photographs to print out for the exhibition in Scunthorpe and here there are as a new Fitties community photographic archive and permanent online exhibition.

Community donated materials on exhibition in 2021 Visual Arts Scunthorpe.

Donated materials being used as a stimulus for a creative writing and art workshop

Fitties community photographic archive

We followed this up later in the project at another creative community event in a vintage chalet and garden on the Fitties on 4 June 2022, which formed part of the Jubilee weekend Fitties celebrations. We were able to bring our artistic and creative materials to the Fitties in the form of artist books, postcards, photographs and eight banners, some with paintings and poetry reproduced and others made from publicly donated materials.

Here are the banner designs - a novel way for us to combine text and image together for the public domain. You can find images of plants and chalets, paintings and donated photographs and poems derived from fieldwork, interviews and memory cards.

We teamed up with Dr Nicola Hemmings from the University of Sheffield. All three of us will welcomed people for a fun, creative, and informative day celebrating our collaborative projects "For every bird a nest" and "Hideaway". This creative drop in on the Fitties was attended by fifty people and they learned about the art and heritage of the chalets, the birds of the Fitties and their amazing breeding biology, and the saltmarsh plants with their extraordinary powers to survive under extreme conditions. They saw the art that we have produced for Hideaway inspired by the Fitties and the environment around, and they were one of the first audiences to see our artists’ book Saltwort: poems and paintings which celebrated the local plants. There were plenty of drop-in activities for all ages, including bird modelling, chalet building, egg and plant painting, and themed word searches. We were also delighted to hear and collect more of the memories of residents and visitors to the chalets and surrounding marshes as well as their responses to our work.

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