Packed programme for Margate NOW’s Sunken Ecologies festival

The green the flow the path of the game image for Adam Chodzko's Sunken Ecology artwork

Margate Now’s Sunken Ecologies festival programme for 2021 kicks off on September 25 and will run for the three weekends until October 10.

The event is curated by researcher Anna Colin, with permanent commissions by Nicolas Deshayes, Lindsey Mendick and Olu Ogunnaike, and new work by headline artists Ama Josephine Budge, Adam Chodzko, Kim Conway, Sonia Overall, Christina Peake, Molly Pickle, Shamica Ruddock, Holly Slingsby, Francesca Ter-Berg and Sara Trillo.

Sunken Ecologies takes on the human-made natural environment, focusing on the Sunken Garden in Westbrook which was designed and landscaped in the 1930s from an old chalk quarry.

The festival includes some 30 exhibitions, installations, performances, walks, talks and other events by more than 20 artists, musicians and writers at venues the Sunken Garden, Nayland Rock Hotel, Pie Factory, public spaces around Margate and online.

Margate NOW and Sunken Gardens Society members Photo Heather Tait

Each weekend Sunken Ecologies showcases permanent, temporary and transient artworks, alongside live music and sound works, readings, performative walks, talks and journeys, plant-based filmmaking, sukkah building, gardening, workshops, an eco gathering curated by the Sunken Garden Society (with coastal, gardening, and wildlife experts), and a Sunken Garden Party.

There will also be other exhibitions and events are happening in Margate and beyond.

For Bough Talk, composer and cellist Francesca Ter-Berg has collected the sonic textures of plants and flowers in the Sunken Garden in all weathers and times of day and night, to create a soundwork.

Adam Chodzko’s video work The green, the flow, the path of the game maps the movements of play, drawing on the network of pathways developed by children as they negotiate between plants, bushes, trees and shadows on the worn periphery of the Sunken Garden.

Holly Slingsby

The Hortorium, Sara Trillo’s installation in the basement of Nayland Rock Hotel operates as a laboratory for excavating, researching and experimenting with the physical materials and archaeology of the Sunken Garden.

Shamica Ruddock’s soundtrack for the Garden, Sun Dial 51.3861°, 1.3520° considers the Sunken Garden’s history as a long forgotten astronomical site, reverberating online and across the airwaves.

Writer Sonia Overall’s Loci, reinterprets plant labels to cite lost, potential and never-to-be plant specimens, through ‘misguided’ walks, talks and performances, and an immersive, ambulatory poem for re-enchanting the Sunken Garden.

Comparing the Sunken Garden to the bottom of the ocean, Christina Peake’s organic assemblage, Aquapelago, is a collection of sculptures that emulate coral formation, scattered across the garden to form an unlikely cohabitation of the marine and the terrestrial.

Shot in the Sunken Garden, Quex Park and private horticultural spaces, Holly Slingsby’s film An Enclosed Garden irreverently evokes monastic herb gardens and medieval hortus conclusus paintings, combining the shared experience of lockdown gardening with figures in isolation such as Homer’s Penelope, anchoress Julian of Norwich and the Virgin Mary.

Ama Josephine Budge engages speculative fiction and ethno-botany in her short story about the Sunken Garden. Spliced: an Obituary is a visual and textual honouring of the unspoken human and non-human lives taken, displaced, misnamed and misremembered by colonial cultures of dispossession.

Kim Conway presents Phyto, a form of “reality” cinema, in which plant matter from the Sunken Garden exposed on photographic film, transforms the plants into ambiguous, fleeting actors.

Molly Pickle

Environmentally conscious Ramsgate illustrator Molly Pickle has created a new identity for the Sunken Garden, using motifs from her Bees and Botanicals collection of hand-drawn plants.

Nicolas Deshayes’ Mermaid Café is a permanent artwork in the form of a gate for the Garden’s grotto, where the gardening tools are kept. Presented as a sculptural relief or organic ‘line drawing’, the work borrows from traditional ornamental ironwork using sand casting to create a fossil-like texture, alluding to the organic plant and marine life intrinsic to the setting of the Sunken Garden.

Lindsey Mendick’s Rotten to the core is a large sculptural compost bin, which proudly displays its decomposing, decaying internal life on its outside surfaces, topped by a giant ‘King Snail’ lid.

Olu Ogunnaike’s Nest is a sculptural bench made from some of the same species of Kentish wood that migratory birds pass over on their journeys through Kent to the rest of the world.

Cliftonville Cultural Space and local artists, horticulturalists and others will create a Jewish Sukkah, or temporary shelter, at the Sunken Gardens. It will be made from reclaimed materials and foraged plants, to celebrate Sukkot, a Jewish festival of the Diaspora marking harvest gathering, nature and environment. The Sukkah will be used to present a programme of acoustic music from artists including Falle Nioke, Charlie Evaristo-Boyce, Dominic Rose and Polish, Czech Roma duo Roman Dani and Marek Čarný and Klezmer duo John Macnaugthon and Simon Roth.

Artists and storytellers Simon Cole, Dominic Rose and Jon Spencer of Transit Collective will present Global Westbrook, a walk that recreates the novelty and curiosity of a foreign holiday without leaving the area. From Margate Station to the Sunken Garden, walkers are guided through international influences on local architecture, urbanism and botany.

With marine and coastal practitioners Plover Rovers, Rebekah Ubuntu, Jules Varnedoe and Jerome White of CRATE showcase Marine Ecologies, new works exploring marine ecology, made in collaboration with marine biologists.

Billie Penfold of Margate Bookie creates Arcade to Arcadia, a performative walk inspired by Tom Stoppard’s Arcadia, starting at the amusement arcade opposite Margate Sands and concluding at the Sunken Garden.

In the Sunken Garden, Limbo artist Sadie Hennessy’s All That Glistens is a large-scale, transitory, sculptural ‘lump’ of Fool’s Gold, alluding to space, deep time and over consumption.

Open School East’s Associates Sara Jackson, Lottie McCarthy, Sam Slattery, Kathryn Tovey & Young Associates co-curate a programme of workshops, and the Young Associates produce a collaborative work overseen by Adam Chodzko.

Margate NOW began in 2014 as Margate Festival and has grown into an annual festival producing contemporary culture for diverse audiences in site-specific locations around Margate. Previous guest curators include People Dem Collective (PDC) (2020); Russell Tovey (2019); and Sacha Craddock (2018).

Margate NOW 2021 is funded by the National Lottery through Arts Council England, Kent County Council, and support from Turner Contemporary, Dreamland, Interreg Experience and Visit Kent.


The Sunken Garden, Royal Esplanade, Westbrook, Kent CT9 5EJ

Nicolas Deshayes ↬ Lindsey Mendick ↬ Olu Ogunnaike ↬ Sonia Overall ↬ Christina Peake ↬ Molly Pickle ↬Francesca Ter-Berg

Opening times: Saturday 25 – Sunday 26 September, Friday 1 October (First Friday), 11am – 8pm, Saturday 2 – Sunday 3 October, Saturday 9 – Sunday 10 October, 11am – 6pm

Nayland Rock Hotel, 1-5 Royal Crescent, Westbrook, Margate CT9 5AJ

Adam Chodzko ↬ Holly Slingsby ↬ Sara Trillo

Opening times: Saturday 25 – Sunday 26 September, Friday 1 October (First Friday), 5 – 8pm, Saturday 2 – Sunday 3 October, Saturday 9 – Sunday 10 October, 11am – 6pm

Pie Factory, 5 Broad Street, Margate CT9 1EW

Rebekah Ubuntu ↬ Jules Varnedoe ↬ Jerome White

Opening times: Saturday 25 – Sunday 26 September, Friday 1 October (First Friday), 5 – 8pm, Saturday 2 – Sunday 3 October, Saturday 9 – Sunday 10 October, 11am – 6pm

Find the full programme at Booking is recommended.


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