Montrose Bay, ‘the changing coast’

The project will explore how the visual arts and public engagement can influence understanding in the local community of the dramatic coastal changes and environmental risk at Montrose Bay.


The focus of this project will be a series of schools workshops and public events combining art, reminiscence, scientific research and access to local archives, to engage local people in a study of the changes affecting their coastline.

The people of Montrose will be asked to bring their memorabilia – film, photos, paintings, sketches, anecdotes and poetry – to an open day and other events. Open Days will be advertised in the local press and Council web pages and there will be an opportunity to share images and record stories. Experts (Local Historians, Geographers, Golf historians) will be available to discuss material.
There will be a presentation on the collaborative  work of the project for school pupils , followed by a series of workshops. Pupils will be given the opportunity to visit the beach and make drawings of what is happening to the dunes.The Artist will work them to develop drawing skills and record their experience not only of the beach and their relationship with it but also it’s topography and weather.
They will be encouraged to consider the issues affecting the beach across a broad range of subject areas-in line with the curriculum for excellence approach.
Their collective drawings will be part of the final exhibition.


Material from these events will be combined with archive material from the local museum, the library and digital media sources. Alongside information from an on-going review being undertaken by Angus Council into coastal change and environmental risk.

Drawings from the schools workshops and my own new work will then be presented along with archive material and information  about the dynamic coastline of the beach .


This will aim to increase understanding of the influence of climate change, natural processes and human intervention on the continually changing dunes, as well as the need for suitable management systems in response to erosion .


Scientific content will be presented by Dr Fraser Milne, lecturer in Geography, School of the Environment, University of Dundee, with educational support from Joyce Gilbert the Educational Officer at The Royal Scottish Geographical Society.


Advice on archive and heritage material  will be provided by Montrose Library, Angus Museum Services, Montrose Harbour Trust, Angus Archives, and Angus Council Coastal Team.


The extent to which the exhibition and workshop elements of the project have influenced people’s understanding will be gauged using a range of evaluation methods. The project blog will also seek people’s comments, ideas and suggestions about the sustainable management of the dunes for the future.

The aim is to publish the substantive findings of the completed project in an academic journal (for example the Royal Scottish Geographical Journal or the International Journal of Education through Art).


We want to explore photographs, film, maps, paintings and prints of Montrose Bay from the past 200 years, both from museum and library archives and from the collections of local people. Geographers currently use old maps and aerial photographs to determine changes in the coastline, the public rarely gain access to such information. People often base their understanding of ‘Place’ on memories and photographs. We want to explore the relationship between images and memory, how memory informs understanding and in turn attitudes to coastal change/risk. Through the creation of new visual art works and the children’s collective drawings  presented as an exhibition we will record the changing dunes and think about how they can be managed for the future.


The team will use community engagement as a means to improve public understanding of coastal change and environmental risk. Looking  in particular at the natural processes involved and through this help create a sustainable area for leisure recreation and heritage.


It is important that the coastline is not seen as fixed but as a naturaly dynamic system, forever adjusting to the varying influences of tide, wind, wave and human activity (Hansom and Rennie, 2004). We want people to understand the need for sensitive management of the coast and the necessity of working with nature to overcome perceived coastal erosion problems.


“The natural processes and dynamics of coastal systems are in continual and sometimes sudden flux. By working with these natural processes rather than against them, and by respecting  the limits imposed by natural processes we make our activities more environmentally sustainable and more economically profitable in the long run.

(Cooper and Mckenna 2008)


School workshops/drawing on the beach will encourage children to look again at their environment . Developing drawing skills can enable children to see and realise things for themselves.


Coastal and sea level change and variations in how man manages the landscape have been a recurring theme in my work with CECHR. This project is therefore a natural development.


Understanding more of the geology and heritage of the landscape I am working in has altered what and how I represent it in my paintings. Walking and experiencing the environment is an important aspect of understanding that place.

I am interested in layers of images and the story of a place. I want  to produce new work using woodblock and lithography to combine drawing and digital images .Materials collected during events, workshops and fieldtrips will be combined recording  the story of the beach from early times to the present and  further illustrating that the coast is not a fixed asset.


I will carry out research with local museum and archive services in Montrose, Dundee University Archive and Library Services, St Andrews University Special Collections dept. The National Library of Scotland Map Collection, SCRAN, Angus Council Coastal Team.


An event/ workshops and an exhibition will be held at Montrose Museum where we plan to offer people the opportunity to speak to an Archivist or Historian, a film record will be kept of the dialogue and made available on the project blog.




Cooper, J.A. and McKenna, J. 2008. Working with natural processes: the challenge

for coastal protection strategies. The Geographical Journal. 174, 315-331.


Hansom, J.D. and Rennie, A.F., 2004. Establishing the rate and sense of medium term coastal changes: St. Cyrus, Scotland. Littoral 2004, 7th International Symposium: Delivering Sustainable Coasts: Connecting Science and Policy (Aberdeen, Scotland), pp. 139-144.


Our aim would be to use art based public engagement as a means to improve  understanding of coastal change and environmental risk.

As a baseline we would run an event /workshop assessing the level of community understanding of coastal change dynamics .This would also initiate the visual record of how the beach was, how it is now and some insights into how it can be managed for the future.


We plan to run school sessions on’ The beach and how it changes’.These would be cross curricular linking Art, Geography and History. The subject would also link to Curriculum for Excellence , Responsible Citizens;

  • I care for my environment
  • I know about Scotland


The focus of school workshops would be about drawing on the beach, allowing the children to experience the beach in different weathers, and teaching them to observe and draw their environment . In the classroom artworks are limited by space and available materials ,offering pupils the experience of looking, drawing and painting in the landscape will provide lasting outcomes for the pupils in how they use drawing and in how they see their local beach.


There would be ongoing opportunities for the public to interact with scientists and the artist and to take another look at the beach and hear about the collaboration,through social media and a project blog.


The public engagement  would culminate in an exhibition to show the memorabilia collection, the science and the visual artwork.


It would be important throughout for me to continue developing my own work both through the experience gained in the collaboration and from looking again at the coastline and its geodiversity.


We would aim to produce written evidence of whether visual arts and public engagement can increase understanding of the need for sensitive management of the beach-dune system.


Generating interest in the local press, an article published on the subject , and the art works and memorabilia included in the Imaging Natural Scotland publication would help complete our aim of providing  some insight into the coastline for the people of Montrose, by helping them to look again at their beach  and  how the dynamic coastline they live and work beside is influenced by both man and nature.


Our target audience for the public engagement aspects are the people of Montrose, teachers, school pupils, and already established community groups.


Our findings regarding arts/ science collaboration and public engagement would be relevant to other communities living with a beach dune system. Our aim of increasing understanding of erosion as a natural process is one of eight principles for integrated coastal zone management listed in a recent EU recommendation.



For the Journal Article we would be targeting visual artists, scientists and those involved in education who are interested in a collaboration based on  public engagement.


The final exhibition and events would be for a wide audience of people interested in Scotland’s Natural Heritage, the coast, and how climate change issues are represented in the visual arts.


We have budgeted for support in managing the blog to keep track of the project and regularly posting relevant stories. date. The team will actively follow other projects with similar interests to engage interest in our pages.


Jean Duncan, Artist

Dr Fraser D. Milne University of Dundee

Dr Joyce Gilbert RSGS

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