Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Songs of Salt on the Southbank

Songs of Salt is an audio-visual installation inspired by shanties and tales of the sea. Located in a beach hut on Queens Walk on the Southbank, you are invited to lie back and immerse yourself in the narratives of those who have lived and worked on the ocean. 

Songs of Salt is a meditative reflection on both the isolation and camaraderie of life at sea, or of those left ashore.

Open daily 11am – 6pm
Friday 29 July – Sunday 14 August 2011.
Please join us from 11am on Saturday 6 August 2011 for a day of seaside activities hosted by Metal, including a performance of traditional and contemporary shanties by City Shanty Band. 
Songs of Salt was collectively conceived by Jessica Akerman, Juliet Sugg, Christopher Rainbow and Ellie Curtis. It was first produced for the Whitstable Biennale Satellite Programme 2010.
With thanks to Mark Lawson of Dead Horse Morris for his vocal performance and vast knowledge; Dicky Moore for his support with audio composition and production; and Matthew Robinson for the design and fabrication of the bunk. 
Spanish Ladies
Spanish Ladies is a traditional sea shanty which tells the story of a British Royal navy voyage from Spain to the English Channel. Often categorized as a capstan shanty, it would have been sung to help sailors keep time when turning the capstan to raise the anchor and leave port. There are several international versions of the song which utilize the same melody but adapt the lyrics to suit the location.
There are many theories about its meaning and references. When Spain and Britain were allies during the French Revolution, British ships often docked in Spanish harbours. After defeating the French army, the soldiers were shipped back to England and forbade to take their illegitimate Spanish wives and children home with them. Alternatively, Spanish Ladies might be the prostitutes that sailors met in the various ports they passed through.

Another reading is that the song tells the story of a ship lost in fog. Unable to determine its latitude, sailors read the sandy bottom of the ocean from the English Channel to the Isle of Scilly as a means to track their journey home.

About the artists

Jessica Akerman and Juliet Sugg are based in London. They work collaboratively to produce drawings, installations, objects and performances. With a strong interest in storytelling, they combine historical research with playful imaginings to create a sense of place, parallel realities or fictional lives.

Christopher Rainbow is an artist and illustrator working between London and Moscow. He enjoys storytelling, reportage, printmaking and running through the city at night with a band of foxes. He is a regular contributor to Blueprint magazine.

Christopher's work can be seen at

Monday, 5 July 2010

Songs of Salt was a simple, immersive installation created for the Whitstable Biennale Satellite Programme in July 2010. The piece was inspired by sea shanties; songs performed by men who lived and worked on the sea. It was collectively produced and conceived by Jessica Akerman, Ellie Curtis, Christopher Rainbow and Juliet Sugg. 

The installation was topped off with a live sunset performance by local folk group Dead Horse Morris and the Shipwright Shanty Crew, which drew a large crowd to the Whitstable beach front on the last Saturday of the show. The audio transcript of the performance was later included in the Whitechapel Gallery’s Scrivener’s Cove event in August 2010.

You can listen to some of the material on the Satellite Programme website: