Press Release: MARGATE NOW festival announces artists and partners for Sunken Ecologies programme 2021

MARGATE NOW announces the artists, partners and projects for the 2021 Sunken Ecologies festival programme curated by Anna Colin, including permanent commissions by Nicolas Deshayes, Lindsey Mendick and Olu Ogunnaike, and commissions by headline artists Ama Josephine Budge, Adam Chodzko, Kim Conway, Sonia Overall, Christina Peake, Shamica Ruddock, Holly Slingsby, Francesca Ter-Berg and Sara Trillo. Sunken Ecologies takes on the human-made natural environment, centering on the Sunken Garden, a public park in the Westbrook area of Margate, designed and landscaped in the 1930’s.

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.

Highlights of the 2021 programme:

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.

Curator Anna Colin said, “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, “We are thrilled to be announcing our headline artists and partnership commissions for Margate NOW 2021. This year promises to be an exciting development for our festival, as Anna Colin consolidates the Sunken Ecologies programme with a line-up of artists that demonstrate quality and creativity.”

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 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 [email protected] or 07966 486156.


Sunken Ecologies, 25 September 2021 – 10 October 2021. The Sunken Garden, Royal Esplanade, Westbrook, Kent CT9 5EJ, and Nayland Rock Hotel, CRATE, Limbo, Cliftonville Cultural Centre (formerly Margate Synagogue), galleries, project spaces and public places around the town and online.

– The Sunken Garden, 25 September – ongoing:  Nicolas Deshayes, Lindsey Mendick and Olu Ogunnaike

– The Sunken Garden, 25 September – 10 October 2021: Sonia Overall, Francesca Ter-Berg and Christina Peake

– Nayland Rock Hotel, 25 September – 10 October 2021: Sara Trillo, Adam Chodzko and Holly Slingsby

Other exhibitions, dates and venues to be announced.

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 Sunken Ecologies

Sunken Ecologies embraces topics that are dear to an increasing number of cultural practitioners and environmentally-engaged individuals and communities. From growing, nurturing and extracting transferable learnings from nature and its associated cosmologies, to questioning physical and cultural access to nature, the artists and guest organisations taking part in Sunken Ecologies approach environmental themes and practices through documentation, investigation, speculation, mimesis, material reconfiguration and community making. 

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.

About Margate NOW

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. Initially delivered by an independent producer, Margate Festival was originally funded by Turner Contemporary, Kent County Council, Dreamland and Arts Council England. The first iteration, Summer of Colour (2014), was a town-wide programme of events inspired by Turner Contemporary’s Mondrian and Colour exhibition. Since then Margate Festival has grown in size and focus, developing arts and culture in the area. The current team have run the festival since 2018, working with over 600 artists to attract visitor numbers in excess of 15,000 annually. 2019 brought together organisations across the town alongside that year’s Turner Prize exhibition at Turner Contemporary.

Previous guest curators include People Dem Collective (PDC), (2020); Russell Tovey (2019) and Sacha Craddock (2018). Highlights from recent iterations of Margate NOW include The Margate Kebab Map by Umut Gunduz and Anna Skutley (2020), an online game about the overlooked restaurants of Margate; People Dem Collective’s projection on Arlington House (2020); Art Car Boot Fair in the car park of Dreamland Vintage Fun Fair, (2019); Margate Station Commissions by Studio Tac and Jessica-Jordan Wrench (2019); 23p Beans by Ty Locke (2019), an installation of thousands of tins of baked beans before they were donated to local food banks; and Now you see me Now you don’t by Helder Clara (2018), a site-specific intervention on the Westbrook Bay beach stone defence.

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.