Commission Updates

Each year Visual Arts Plymouth, the group behind the Plymouth Art Weekender, commissions new projects for the Weekender that relate to the city. The commissioned artists for this year are Bridgette Ashton (co-commissioned with The Box), Laura Denning, and Go Happen. 

Bridgette AshtonBridgette Ashton, WORTH’S FOLLY (A PROPOSAL FOR THE CATTEDOWN BONE CAVES ATTRACTION)  paper mache, wood, glue, paint

  • Tell us about your research so far for the commission.

LD:  I have been researching for Hydrosapien, a collaborative performance for Plymouth Art Weekender, which brings Plymouth’s D/deaf community together alongside a duo of established voice artists.

As the project is in its early stages, I have been building on the initial idea, and going to a lot of meetings! I have successfully brought voice artists Joseph Kohlmaier and Iris Garrelfs on board and begin workshopping with them in the next few weeks. I have met with Steve Connolly from the Hearing Support Centre at Eggbuckland Community College in Plymouth who has given me excellent advice and even better contacts, and who is enthusiastic about helping me get together between 50-100 BSL signers (if any BSL signers are reading this and want to take part please get in touch!) Laura can be contacted at

BA: I have been carrying out research into the history of the Plymouth Cattedown Bone Caves and Cattedown itself. I am currently reading R.N. Worth’s ‘History of Plymouth from the Earliest Period to the Present Time’ (1890).

I have been working with Jan Freedman, Natural History curator at The Box (a new cultural centre in development for Plymouth) who has shown me a number of Palaeolithic human bones (in the museum store) which were discovered by R.N.Worth when he stumbled upon the Caves in the 1880s.  The Bones had been displayed at Plymouth Athenaeum when it also existed as a museum and which was bombed during the Blitz so many of the bones are charred and damaged.

GH: We are Colette Grenville and Jacob Woods, who work together under the name Go Happen.

Our research has been inspired by the French sailor Bernard Moitessier, who departed from Plymouth on the Sunday Times Globe Race in 1968. This was solo and non-stop and still today is akin to space travel in its magnitude and solitude.

As he neared the finish he was in the lead, but decided to abandon the race and keep sailing, ending up back in the Pacific in Tahiti ‘..because I am happy at sea, and perhaps also to save my soul.’ (ref. The Long Way p.169) This decision inspired a generation of sailors. He kept his mind clear by teaching himself yoga on the deck and kept in touch with home by slingshot messages to passing boats. He had no radio transmitter.

  • Any surprises in your research?

LD: I was surprised to learn that there are regional and colloquial versions of British Sign Language.

BA: The Cattedown Bone Caves were accidentally discovered by R.N Worth in 1886 during quarrying in the area and the excavated Palaeolithic bones (of humans and animals) were subsequently displayed at Plymouth Athenaeum.

GH: Bernard Moitessier set out a campaign for every town in America to plants trees along the roads in order to combat climate change. He had a bold vision, but it didn’t happen.

  • In your project is there something of interest to particular communities or places?

LD: The whole project relates to Plymouth as an Ocean City, as the performance piece is all about water. Working with local BSL users is broadening my understanding of the D/deaf community in Plymouth and making the city feel bigger and richer as a consequence.

GH: We will be running a workshop around Moitessier’s story and turning points in people’s biographies. We are looking for people from Plymouth to take part in the workshops and who are interested in contributing stories to the boat. To participate in the workshop email

  • Where will Plymouth Art Weekender visitors see your work?

LD: Hydrosapien Performances will be shown on: 28th September, 6.30pm, Guildhall, Plymouth and the 29th September, 2pm, Barbican Wharf.

BA: My project involves developing ideas for a temporary structure, which will be sited in the City Centre during Plymouth Art Weekender, as a response to the Cattedown Caves.  Its location will make links between various histories relating to the caves.

GH: Throughout the Plymouth Art Weekender festival a boat will be pulled through Plymouth city centre. This will be a travelling audio installation and performance that anyone can interact with.

Laura Denning_Still 2 from BSL Training Video featuring Fletch the Deaf Popstar (who also translated the material into BSL)Laura Denning, Still from BSL Training Video featuring Fletch the Deaf Popstar (who also translated the material into BSL)