Arts by the Sea Festival 2020 Announces COVID-Friendly Outdoor Programme

Following the recent announcement that Bournemouth’s Arts by the Sea Festival will go ahead in 2020 in a revised, COVID-friendly format, the south coast event now unveils details of its live physical event programme.  Festival organisers at BCP Council and From The Fields (Bluedot and Kendal Calling) are delighted to announce an exciting and engaging mix of outdoor events that includes largescale fire and light installations, thought provoking film screenings, interactive community projects, immersive sound experiences and more. This all takes place across various indoor and outdoor spaces in Bournemouth and Poole including The Gardens, Pavilion Dance and local beaches from Friday 25th September to Sunday 4th October. Guests can be safe in the knowledge that the new festival set-up meets government safety guidelines with timed entry slots and restricted capacities to allow for social distancing, whilst at the same still delivering a much-needed dose of cultural activity. Some of the live events are (free) ticketed for audience safety, and tickets can be booked from the Arts by the Sea website from early September (

The live outdoor programme for 2020 welcomes back Arts by the Sea Associate Artists and long-time collaborators, Ithaca Studio, who present an outdoor adaptation of their large-scale light extravaganza, ‘Sea of Light’. Guests can enjoy thousands of light spheres in a dazzling 360-degree light experience accompanied by a surround-sound music composition.

Family-friendly adventures come in the form of a fiery night-time landscape created by outdoor arts experts, Walk the Plank. ‘The Fire Garden’ will see an everyday space transformed into a dazzling world of illuminating arts, brimming with flaming flower boxes, crackling trees and plumes of fire. This will be the first time the installation – which has previously toured to award-winning festivals and events – will be seen in Bournemouth.

Elsewhere in central Bournemouth, festival goers can step into ‘The Congregation’; an immersive sound experience curated by local musician and composer, Guy Dowsett. Through sensor triggered design, hundreds of insects, birds and other creatures can be heard in a vast and entrancing tapestry of living sound, as guests journey back in time to when humans inhabited the forest.

Film fans will be intrigued by the arrival of TOM by award-winning choreographer and film maker, Wilkie Branson. In a socially distanced set-up at Pavilion Dance South West, TOM tells the story of one man’s journey to rediscover who he really is. This soul-searching, poetic film explores storytelling using the hip hop language of b-boying, bringing it together with cutting-edge technologies including animation, projection mapping, sound design and film installation.

Ever supporting local talent, Arts by the Sea is thrilled to stage the work of Bournemouth-based graffiti artist, Ricky Also. ‘You Are Here’ is a bold, 3D supergraphic installation, built as a bespoke structure around interlocking blocks of colour, geometric shapes and letters. Situated in Lower Gardens, it serves as a visual reminder to visitors to stop and enjoy the here and now in the ever-changing world we live in.

Arts by the Sea 2020 will also be a time of reflection. ‘In Memoriam’ by Luke Jerram is commissioned by Culture Weston and University Hospitals Bristol & Weston NHS Foundation Trust. (Supported by Without Walls and FESTIVAL.ORG. Informed by the Wellcome Trust-funded ‘Weather Lives’ project, led by Dr Cassie Phoenix at Durham University.) It will be found on Sandbanks Beach and it offers a place for the public to remember those lost in the COVID-19 pandemic.  A display of bed sheets will create a symbolic sea of flags to reflect loved ones passed and pay tribute to brave NHS staff members and volunteers.

Inspired by the themes of ‘In Memoriam’ by Luke Jerram, ‘Speak To The Sea’ is an open-to-all, participatory event curated in association with local arts and wellbeing organisation, CoCreate. Set on the beach, guests will be prompted by a series of signboards to ‘speak to the sea’ about their own personal experiences and feelings from the last few months. With the sea being a contemplative place, used by many to meditate on challenges or hope for new futures, it’s the perfect location for this reflective piece.

Speak To The Sea will also feature artwork from members of the public who have been personally affected by COVID-19 via CoCreate’s community artwork project, Process.  Those wishing to take part should visit before the sign up deadline of 27th August.

Further participatory community events come from CoCreate with #PostcardsFromMemory. From extravagant road trips to disastrous holidays; from a walk to the shops to a cycle across the Pyrenees; this project will exhibit stories from the public’s most memorable journeys in words, images or both – squeezed onto an A6 postcard! Find this at the Bournemouth Central Library for the duration of the festival and online at Visit to take part.

With limited capacities, these events will be augmented via digital broadcasts, meaning anyone not able to secure a ticket or unable to leave the safety of their home, can get involved online. All events will be subject to government guidance at the time.

2020 was set to be the most magical installation of Arts by the Sea as it marked 10 years of bringing art and culture to the south coast of England. In contrast to the regular crowds of over 100,000 people, Arts by the Sea will now welcome a reduced number of revellers to a handful of live physical events (plus a larger than usual online programme), but will remain as intriguing and lively as before, as it continues to offer a true and unique exploration of arts and culture.