- Date: 22 April 2009
- Artform: Visual arts
- Area: South West
Prototype bell sculpture pioneered in Appledore, North Devon
The Time and Tide Bell, a combined product of art, physics and engineering which sounds a different note with every strike, is a project of Beaworthy sculptor, film-maker and composer Marcus Vergette.
Marcus has collaborated with Dr Neil Mclachlan in Australia and Pattinson Brothers Engineering of Sheffield to produce the bell in a project supported by a grant of £10,000 from Arts Council England, South West. The bell is mounted at Appledore in North Devon.
After developing a public access bell in Highhampton to commemorate local experience of the 2001 foot and mouth disease outbreak, Marcus became interested in the concept of using the bell ‘as a mouthpiece of our culture’. From this grew the idea of the Time and Tide Bell, which will be struck not by a person or mechanism, but by the action of the tide. The current will move the centrally-pivoted, double-ended clapper so that it strikes both the top and bottom of the open-ended bell to produce different notes one after another as a melody.
‘This will produce a mark in time, connecting that spot, that moment, to the movement of the moon, and the sea,’ explains Marcus.
Marcus spent over a year researching the physics of vibration and collaborated with Dr Neil Mclachlan, Senior Research Associate at the School of Aerospace at RMIT University in Melbourne, who used computer technology to model the precise shape necessary to produce the required sounds. Marcus then sought a foundry capable of casting the hour-glass shaped bell, which had to be accurate to within 50 microns of its design specification. He selected Pattinson Brothers Engineering of Sheffield, specialist manufacturers for the aerospace, marine and other industries, to cast the complex bell.
The bell has been mounted at the high-tide mark at Appledore and as it will become part of the local environment, Marcus has sought maximum involvement from the community to ensure it is located in the most suitable spot.
‘As the effect of global warming increases the bell strikes will become more and more frequent, and as the bell becomes submerged in the rising water the pitch will vary,’ says Marcus. ‘At each site the host community will imprint their identity onto the bell, physically and symbolically, through an inscription of their choosing on the bell. This unique bell installation expresses an idea of community and individuality, and focuses on our relationship to the world both cultural and natural, with resonance both symbolically and acoustically.’
Marcus aims for the Appledore bell to be the first of a series of Time and Tide Bells around the entire British coastline. He has been exploring potential community sites reflecting all aspects of the sea and our relationship with it, including Dorset’s ancient Jurassic coastline, the major entry / departure port of Dover, the Houses of Parliament, Lincolnshire’s fenland coast, the border town of Berwick on Tweed, the fishing port of Aberdeen, Stornoway on the Isle of Lewis, the naval port of Barrow in Furness, Liverpool’s heritage shipping harbour, ancient and mystical Anglesey and Swansea, directly opposite Appledore.