Genevieve Rudd runs a community arts, walking and nature project called Yarmouth Springs Eternal. Here, she invites people to connect with nature during the forthcoming Creativity and Wellbeing Week
Who you are and what do you do?
I’m a community artist from/based in Great Yarmouth, on the Norfolk coast. I’ve worked as a freelancer developing and leading creative engagement with people for over 10 years, and I especially enjoy working in my hometown.
Through my work, I facilitate creative projects that often explore environmental and heritage themes, this might include walking, nature-connection activity or working outdoors. I have my own arts practice too. This mainly takes place in my garden, where I use collected rain water, plants and sunlight to create slow and seasonal photographic or textile art.
I run a project called Yarmouth Springs Eternal. It’s a community arts, walking and nature project that celebrates overlooked and everyday experiences of nature, challenges the definition of what ‘nature’ means and recognises the inequality of access to green and natural spaces. We’re in our second year, this year supported by Creative Practices for Transformational Futures (CreaTures) and Norfolk County Council’s Arts Project Fund.
What’s the thinking behind the project?
In 2020, during Lockdown, I really struggled when most of my freelance income was wiped out. I was also acutely aware that I was lucky to have access to a private garden and live close to green spaces and the local beach here in Gorleston-on-sea, over the bridge from Great Yarmouth town centre. Spending time in nature didn’t ‘solve’ my problems, but it helped me to centre myself to be able to better manage my own situation.
At the time, I was reading new research being published about inequality of access to green and natural spaces during Covid-19, whilst simultaneously, there were many other people benefiting from accessing nature as an essential adaptive wellbeing tool. There was a clear picture showing that people experiencing inequality in other areas of society were also the ones struggling to access safe local natural spaces, such as people living in insecure housing, those with unstable income and those from a Black, Asian and Ethnic Minority background. I wondered how I could use my privilege, skills and experience, working as a community artist in my hometown, to create a space to connect with local nature, in creative and meaningful ways – and from this, the idea for Yarmouth Springs Eternal was sown!
In 2021, the first year of the project was developed and led in partnership with originalprojects;, a Great Yarmouth-based arts charity. They manage and run PRIMEYARC, a communal arts space in a large unit that was Debenhams, in Market Gates Shopping Centre. We’re very grateful to work in their space again for this year’s Yarmouth Springs Eternal project.
Yarmouth Springs Eternal is in its second year. How did the first year go and how have people benefitted from the project?
I might be biased, but the first year was just amazing! Remember that feeling, when we were coming out of a tough 2020 into a new year in 2021. We worked within very defined Covid-19 guidelines and control measures during the first year of the project and were still ultimately in the thick of a troubling situation, but we were able to find ways to safely connect and creatively flourish.
Some of the group members from the first year have been part of the second year, so it’s been lovely to reconnect and build on some happy Springtime memories. We received very positive feedback in 2021. If you’d like to look at our short video from our 2021 programme, created by filmmaker Becky Demmen/Supporting Your Art, visit Vimeo. Becky is back this year too and is currently working on a film of the project activities in March, April and May 2022. The new video and some of the other project outcomes will be on show at the CreaTures event in Spain in July, alongside many of the other projects they have been funding and supporting across Europe.
What’s happening for Creativity and Well-being Week 2022?
From May 19-21, we’re hosting four free events for the public to take part in. Each one is themed around a different aspect of Spring, nature, creativity and Great Yarmouth.
These events are being led by our community participants. Our group attended a series of workshops in March and April led by arts and ecology practitioners Ligia Macedo, Holly Sandiford, Jacques Nimki and Tiffany Wallace. The group – with support from our project assistant Moyses Gomes and myself – have since designed and developed this series of events for May, to coincide with Creativity & Wellbeing Week 2022.
If last year was about a broad-cast sowing of multiple ideas and activities, this year has been about deep nurturing of our roots and reflection. The people who have been participating in the Yarmouth Springs Eternal project have lived experience of homelessness and migration. They have been commissioned and paid to facilitate walking sessions in pairs, bringing their creativity and ideas to life.
This year’s Creativity & Wellbeing Week theme is ‘Get Creative, Get Outdoors’, and that’s exactly what our community-led events will support you to do! Expect some walking, drawing, close looking and using your senses, in a relaxed and friendly group.
What do you think people get out of the events and how can they get involved?
What I think people get out of Yarmouth Springs Eternal is something time and geographically specific, whilst also being very universal and bigger than just the project.
What I mean by that is this project is about Great Yarmouth in Springtime. We’re very honest and open-hearted about how Spring presents to us, we explore the streets as much as we explore the more ‘natural’ spaces. We’re very open to complexity too, recognising that we’re in a time of climate and ecological emergency, and that much that we often define as ‘nature’ is manicured from a human perspective.
By describing the project as ‘universal’, I mean that we, as humans, are nature too. We are in this ecosystem and it’s our right – whoever we are, whatever our experience is – to honour and celebrate our role within the natural world. Our lived experiences shouldn’t be a barrier to this connect. This is what we try to do through Yarmouth Springs Eternal: we bring a huge range of life experiences, but the thing that connects us all is our essential relationship to nature.
People can get involved in Yarmouth Springs Eternal by booking onto a community-led walk this Spring. As well as enjoying the session (we hope!), your presence and any thoughts you wish to share will also be part of CreaTures EU research into the impact of creative eco-social engagement. If you’d like to book, please visit eventbrite.
Any events later in the year you would like to flag up?
Yarmouth Springs Eternal is a project all about Spring in Great Yarmouth, so naturally it goes into hibernation once the Summer arrives. I will reflect on the feedback once the project has ended and will be back into the funding bids in Summer/Autumn to grow the project again in 2023… watch this space!
As a full-time community artist my work grows and flows all year round beyond Yarmouth Springs Eternal. Within my not-for-profit organisation, Under Open Sky Ltd, we’re hosting a Beach Labyrinth event on Sunday July 24, to connect and reflect on the changing coastal climate on Gorleston-on-sea beach. Plus, we have National Lottery Community Funding to run ‘Women Walking Wild’, a walking project co-led by eco-therapist Beth Stephen and I, with clients from Feathers Futures, which will be hosting a celebratory exhibition curated by JMC Anderson later in the year.
Visit genevieverudd.com, Under Open Sky and Yarmouth Springs Eternal on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. You can book onto an event here. Creativity and Wellbeing Week is a partnership between London Arts and Health Forum and the Culture, Health & Wellbeing Alliance and this year’s theme is Get Creative, Get Outdoors. For more Norfolk events, click here.