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  • Writer's pictureSue Parr

Interactions with the sand, sea, stones and grasses

Reflections on some of my learning whilst taking part in Magic Acorns' - The Nest - 28th September- 12th October 2023

This aims of The Nest residency: Explore creating family events/ encounters at the beach and an installation in Magic Acorns' space.

I really enjoyed being part of a large team (13) of Artists and Producers. I have never been a part of

something so fluid as this! (Although Ringsfield training was a good beginning).

For me, being an imposter was an immediate reaction! But I’m not musical!!!!

I soon realised that there were others than felt uncomfortable in the group! That somehow made

me feel better. Not sure why?

Learning no.1: Relax and find my place.


Chris wrote a song called The Conch Song.

Oh no! Now we have to sing!

I tried to learn the words but ended up copying someone else’s lead during the singing.

Making the flags, strips of material tied to the long poles. I am much happier doing background work

such as making things. Also it was a smaller group!

I have a new awareness that larger groups of people make me feel anxious. I have a habit of

stepping back. This is something to work on.

Learning no. 2: Learn to relax around more people.


At the end of the build and rehearsal I felt overwhelmed by all the small parts to the project;

Walking the boardwalk with bells on ankles

Keeping in time walking along the boardwalk

Playing bowls while walking on the boardwalk

Getting the bowls out on the beach

Playing and exploring with the bowls

Using natural materials and sticks

‘Seagulls' coming out of the dunes

‘Waves’ coming out of the sea

The conches

The accordion

The shruti box

Flags big and small

All this and then add an audience of 0-3year olds and their parents!

Remembering who the audience were made me happy!

In the evening I worked out a simple framework for everything to fit into . Now I know what is

happening I feel prepared ! Very loosely!

Learning no.3: Get prepared to enjoy the project.


My part on the promenade was to meet the families with Sophie. Each occasion was different with

varying factors such as age of babies/ children, buggies or walking/ being carried, the weather,

numbers and attention span.

Each occasion brought surprise to the families, being walked down the promenade with bells and

bowls heading in the direction of the conch(es).

Learning no.4: Start the magic early, create awe and wonder.


During one of the promenade sessions I wasn’t needed, everyone was engaged and so I sat behind a

flag and watched. Charlotte had said that if there is nothing for you to do sit, watch and be present.

I witnessed a beautiful moment where Mothers and babies were having shiny material swaying

overhead them and they were all absorbed in the moment. Mother’s were lying back and enjoying

the sun glistening through the material with a warm wind blowing, watching their babies being

mesmerised by the cloth.

This was brilliantly in total contrast to the same activity (material being swayed) in Magic Acorns

space where the mothers were chatting together and their children were playing around them. The

material was swayed over the mother’s and children for about 5 minutes but the mum’s seemed

totally unaware of what was going on overhead.

Learning no. 5 : This activity shows to me that you cannot expect a certain result due to use of a certain prop. These different outcomes could not have been predicted or forced. Was the first instance a result of being out in nature?


When Helena and Jorge were with us, Helena asked a question;

“What does the playground look like with a parent, without a parent or with a carer?"

On the last day it rained and only one mother and toddler came to the beach. I stayed back waiting

for other families. When I walked in late to the group. The artists were following the lead of the

toddler, who was very aware that everyone was copying. Whilst leading the play the toddler

called over to their mum twice. To see if she was there. Both times the mum replied ‘ I’m here.

You’re okay!’ The play never stopped, the child knew they were safe and continued this game.

This bubble was broken by a man with a quad bike and 4 dogs!


The man was totally unaware!

Learning no.6: You get answers when you know what the question is.


I thoroughly enjoyed this project, meeting new, interesting people and feeling part of the group. I

loved how loosely the framework was made and how everyone seemed to make the most of this

opportunity in their own ways. The power was in the space created, there was a freedom of no

expectations again (from a previous Magic Acorn Play Day with Rest and Digest) .

Learning no.7: Aionic time, where everyone is present in the moment, altogether!

This is something to work on, being fully present in the moment!



What happens and what do we do in our uncontained space?

What happens to the materials and documentation we gather from the beach?

I thought it was amazing how quick the uncontained space felt very warm and inviting. The small

flags gathered around the play area made it feel safe. The children did move beyond this space

happily over the dunes and towards the sea but I felt more secure in knowing where ‘home’ was in

relation to the wandering and playing with the children.

There were inventive props to attract the attention of the children. The Conch was brilliant for

attracting the attention and was used before the ‘birds’ flew out of the dunes. And before the ‘sea’

came up the beach. Music definitely played a big part in the session with the accordion and shruti

box entertaining the toddlers and soothing some of the babies.

The bowls were an initial focus point ( but not everyone engaged in them) Where natural, slow

explorations took place, interactions with the sand, sea, stones and grasses from the dunes were

integrated within the play.. These natural elements were taken back to the Magic Acorns' space to be used as part of the installation. I made a natural basket for collecting pebbles in.

There were lots of photos and videos taken from both spaces. I can’t wait to see what video artist Lewis Wickwar has produced.


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