Margate NOW 2021:
Sunken Ecologies

25 September – 10 October

Launching as Sunken Ecologies on 25 September, Colin’s programme for the 2021 festival takes on the human-made natural environment. It centres on the Sunken Garden, a public park in the Westbrook area of Margate, designed and landscaped in the 1930’s. During the festival, the Sunken Garden will act as a catalyst for botanical, social and speculative investigation and be a space to present artworks, and reclaim or reimagine green spaces.  

Sunken Ecologies comprises nearly 30 exhibitions, installations, performances, walks, talks and other events by over 20 artists, musicians and writers at the Sunken Garden, Nayland Rock Hotel, CRATE, Limbo, Cliftonville Cultural Space (formerly Margate Synagogue), galleries, project spaces and public places around the town and online. The 2021 festival showcases Margate as a centre for the production and presentation of new contemporary art in a programme made in collaboration with artists, partners and venues selected from proposals by creative practitioners who live and work in Margate and across south east England.


Permanent commissions

New permanent commissions by Nicolas Deshayes, Lindsey Mendick and Olu Ogunnaike for Margate’s Sunken Garden. Made from sustainable materials and responding to the practical needs of the Garden and of the community group that cares for it, the three functional artworks include: a gate for the Garden’s cave (to store gardening tools), a compost bin and a bench.

Headline artists’ commissions

  • Ama Josephine Budge engages speculative fiction and ethno-botany in her short story about the Sunken Garden.
  • Cellist Francesca Ter-Berg’s multi-channel sound installation activates the Sunken Garden at dawn and dusk.
  • Adam Chodzko’s video work maps the movements of play, drawing on the network of pathways used by children between the bushes and trees on the worn periphery of the Sunken Garden.
  • Sara Trillo’s installation in the basement of Nayland Rock Hotel operates as a laboratory for researching the science and archaeology of the Sunken Garden.
  • Shamica Ruddock’s soundtrack for the Garden reverberates online and across radio airwaves.
  • Writer Sonia Overall’s ‘misguided’ walks and labels tell the story of the absent plants of the Sunken Garden, through real and imagined pasts and futures.
  • Comparing the Sunken Garden to the bottom of the ocean, Christina Peake’s sculpture researches bio-resins, plant starch and living matter to grow a coral.
  • Holly Slingsby’s film considers gardens as spaces of isolation, contemplation and re-generation, imagining Homer’s Penelope, anchoress Julian of Norwich, abbess Hildegard of Bingen and the Virgin Mary in lockdown gardening.
  • Exposing plant matter onto photographic film, Kim Conway presents a camera-less ‘reality cinema’ of the micro ecology of the Sunken Garden.

Partner commissions

  • In the Sunken Garden, Cliftonville Cultural Space together with local artists, horticulturalists and others, collectively create a Jewish Sukkah, or temporary shelter, 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 present a programme of acoustic music from artists including Falle Nioke, and Polish, Roma and Klezmer musicians from the local area and beyond.
  • Accompanying Kim Conway’s film is a live improvised music performance led by Jemma Cullen, Rosie Carr, Holly Hunter & Trevor Neal and members of GOLD (Getting On with Learning Difficulties), Arts in Ramsgate and public participants.
  • Artists and storytellers Simon Cole, Dominic Rose and Jon Spencer of Transit Collective present Global Westbrook, a walk that recreates the novelty and curiosity of a foreign holiday without leaving the area, taking in international influences on local architecture, urbanism and botany.
  • Rebekah Ubuntu, Jules Varnedoe and Jerome White showcase new works exploring marine ecology for CRATE.
  • Elspeth 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 large-scale sculptural ‘lump’ of Fool’s Gold alludes to space, deep time and over consumption.
  • Open School East’s Associates co-curate a programme of talks and workshops, and the Young Associates produce a collaborative work overseen by Adam Chodzko.

Outdoor and online talks and intimate events will take place during the three weekends of the festival: 25-26 September, 2-3 October and 9-10 October 2021. Further details of the programme will be announced at the beginning of September.

Photo Credit: Heather Tait

Based in Kent, Colin is the former director and a co-founder of Open School East (2013-20), and an independent curator, educator and researcher with an interest in garden design and horticulture. 

If many of the artists involved have a direct relationship with nature and the outdoor and are connected to the urgency of the climate crisis, others have been invited for their poetic and speculative approaches, and response-ability. Sunken Ecologies’ subtext includes engagement with the themes of cooperation, collective experience, colonial legacies, and reflections on the Capitalocene and the precariousness of land.

Dan Chilcott, Jo Murray and Claire Orme, Co-Directors of Margate NOW said, “This year we continue our overarching motif of ‘Now’, with a focus on the immediate themes of nature and ecology, which are taking on greater pertinence in present times. We hope that our programme of commissions in the public realm will animate the town, enliven unusual spaces and attract audiences from Margate and beyond.

Photo Credit: Heather Tait

About Anna Colin

Anna Colin is an independent curator, educator and researcher based in Deal, Kent. Alongside her freelance activities, which straddle the curatorial and the pedagogical and increasingly engage the natural environment and open spaces, she is training in horticulture and garden design, while completing a PhD in the School of Geography at the University of Nottingham. Her doctoral research unpacks the notion of the alternative in multi-public educational organisations from the late 19th century to the present, in the UK and further afield. 

Colin was a co-founder and director of Open School East, an independent art school and community space in London then Margate (2013-20). She worked as associate curator at Lafayette Anticipations in Paris (2014-20), associate director at Bétonsalon – Centre for art and research, Paris (2011-12), and curator at Gasworks, London (2007-10). Colin has curated exhibitions at venues including CA2M, Móstoles/Madrid; Whitechapel Gallery, London; Victoria Gallery & Museum, Liverpool; Contemporary Image Collective, Cairo; GAM, Turin; La Synagogue de Delme, Delme;  Le Quartier, Quimper; La Maison pop, Montreuil; and The Women’s Library, London. In 2015-16, Anna was co-curator, with Lydia Yee, of British Art Show 8 (Leeds, Edinburgh, Norwich and Southampton).

About the Sunken Garden

The Sunken Garden is situated in Westbrook in Margate where it is a feature of the Royal Esplanade. Landscaped in the early 1930s during the years of the Depression, the garden survived the neglect of war and the partial eclipse of the popularity of seaside resorts. This much loved community space is set in the limestone chalk cliff of Westbrook Bay where it is protected from sweeping winds and encircled by a terrace, and is one of the rare places on the Margate coastline where trees are found. Planting has changed radically from the lush bedding displays of the 1930s to the present arrangement of hardy coastal shrubs. Under the care of the Sunken Garden Society (SGS), a group of committed dedicated volunteers, SGS has – since 2018 – actively engaged with wildlife conservation, and is an RHS affiliated society. SGS was a recipient of the 2020 Bees Needs Champions Award.


Margate NOW 2021 is only made possible thanks to public funding from the National Lottery through Arts Council England, Kent County Council, and support from Interreg Experience and Visit Kent.

For images, interview requests and further information please contact Janette Scott Arts PR on or 07966 486156.