Art and Events

New Networks for Nature

Helen Smith will be giving a personal angle on the fen raft spider conservation project at the New Networks for Nature annual symposium Nature Matters: Place and Belonging in Stamford on 13th November.

Fen Raft spider poem

Read Caroline Gill's winning poem in the Zooloical Society of London's 2014 competition here.

Artist Residency

On the margins - the fen raft spiders of Redgrave & Lopham Fen - buy from the British Arachnological Society to benefit Britain's many endangered spider species (£15 inc. P&P) or from other UK booksellers.

Published by Langford Press in October 2014, with a foreword by Mark Cocker, this 173 page softback book combines the work of artist Sheila Tilmouth with text by Helen Smith.

Sheila Tilmouth's beautiful images result from a five year residency with the spiders at Redgrave & Lopham Fen. She describes the inspiration behind the images as well as the techniques used to create them - from oil painting to collagraphy. The images of the spiders are supported by Sheila's photographs of the Fen and its wildlife as well as by Helen's text, which gives a personal insight into the spiders' lives and the long struggle to ensure their future. In his foreword to the book, Mark Cocker says 'spiders matter and this book makes the case perfectly'.

In 2009 D. plantarius became the first spider species in the UK (possibly in the world!) to have its own artist in residence. Since then residency, by Yorkshire artist Sheila Tilmouth, has brought the story of this spectacular spider, and the wider messages it conveys about the amazing lives of spiders and the plight of other wetland species, to a wide new audience.

During 2014-15, with Arts Council England funding, Sheila's images of the spiders were brought together in both a book - 'On the Margins - the raft spiders of Redgrave and Lopham Fen' - and a touring exhibition. 

Sheila's residency started in 2009 when Arts Council England awarded her a grant to work alongside the D. plantarius conservation project at Redgrave and Lopham Fen. As well as developing a wonderful series of images of the spiders lives, using a wide variety of media, Sheila ran print-making workshops for groups normally unable to enjoy and access wild places and creative opportunities.

In 2010 the BBC Wildlife Fund continued to fund the project, extending its reach to include workshops for local primary schools and 'A' Level art students at the Suffolk Wildlife Trust's Education Centre at Carlton Marshes nature reserve near Lowestoft.  The residency has also been supported by the Suffolk Wildlife Trust, Buglife and The British Arachnological Society and the Zoological Society of London.

Click here to see and read about more of Sheila's amazing images of D. plantarius.