It is undoubtedly one of South Devon’s most prestigious accolades, a UNESCO status that when awarded was shared with just 57 areas around the world for their unique geological heritage. Awarded to three coastal towns in 2007, it recognised millions of years of historic activity which formed stunning landscapes, populated thriving waters, and inspired and defined generations of culture and heritage quietly and unfalteringly. More than ten years on, Torbay celebrates its designation with pride as the home of the English Riviera UNESCO Global Geopark.
At the start of August, the English Riviera Geopark Organisation (ERGO) hosted two UNESCO recognised evaluators as part of a revalidation process to determine if Torbay retains the designation for a further 4-years. Under the organisation of the ERGO, partners, volunteers and ambassadors welcomed inspectors Professor Setsuya Nakada and Dr Manfred Kupetz who spent 4 days in Torbay’s Geopark visiting key sites and witnessing the contribution of organisations to help support the Geopark and raise awareness of the UNESCO Global Geopark designation.
As part of the visit, Geopark Associate Partner Artizan Gallery, showcased work from their Geopark Ambassador Artist programme in an exhibition which will run throughout August. Joining the network in the Summer of 2018, the Ambassador Artist programme is currently made up of thirteen creatives from the region, all of whom take inspiration from the landscapes and heritage recognised by the designation.
“The Geopark Ambassador Artist’s are a wonderful representation of Torbay’s creative community and help to tie the heritage and culture recognised by the Geopark designation directly back to the geological significance of our coastal region,” says Jacob Brandon, who manages the programme at Artizan Gallery. “The opportunity for these artists to gain recognition for their work through this UNESCO badge whilst also acting as advocates and educating audiences on our Geopark home, is a great example of how ERGO and its partners work to celebrate this exciting status.”
The current exhibition showcases work from nine of the Geopark Ambassador Artists, who met with inspectors at an artist preview event to discuss their individual practise and how the Geopark inspires and influences their creativity. Each member artist brings their own unique work to the network with one of the main ambitions of the programme being to discover a diversity of creativity as broad as the designation itself.
The evening also provided the opportunity to release an interview with Geopark Ambassador Artist Chrystine Jones produced by The Shorely, a digital publication delivered by the Great Place Scheme. Working in pewter, Chrystine is one of the makers based at Cockington Court and her artistic journey began when she attended the 7th International Conference on Global Geoparks hosted in Torbay in 2016 and she found herself inspired by the geological significance of Torbay.
Chrystine said, “We did a tour of the coastline with this geologist. She told me about things I had no idea, like the upside-down mountain and we actually stood on it. You can see all the fossils - and it's just fantastic - and the importance of the name, the Devonian period, I had no idea about any of this. It just excited me so much I thought this is massive, this is so important.”
ERGO will be notified of the outcome of the inspection in mid-December 2019. The Exhibition of Geopark Ambassador Artists’ work will be on display at Artizan Gallery until the end of August where visitors can also find out more about the English Riviera UNESCO Global Geopark. For more information on the Geopark visit englishrivierageopark.org.uk or to find out more about the Ambassador Artists visit art-hub.co.uk/englishrivierageopark.