PSQT was formed in 1983 making a major contribution to the Year of Beautiful Britain – a national campaign for communities to become involved in improving their environments. The idea for a Sculpture Park where artists created work in response to the environment of Tout Quarry was led by local resident Jonathan Phipps with Prof Philip King from the Royal College of Art, Cllr Les Aimes, Skylark Durston MBE, Admiral Sir Michael Layard KCB CBE, Howard Hull and James Smith, amongst others. Tout Quarry became established as the first Sculpture Park in a Quarry in the UK, widely publicized through television features, articles in National / Local Press, and listed as one of UK’s National Sculpture Parks alongside Grizedale Forest and Yorkshire Sculpture Park.
Both established and emerging artists (local and national) including Antony Gormley, Richard Wilson, Phyllida Barlow, Keir Smith, Stephen Marsden and Philip King, created both temporary and permanent work in response to the quarry environment, giving back to the 250 year old quarry where in the past so much had been taken away for buildings in London and cities around the world. Their work work became a key to accessing the landscape, creating vantage points – where sculpture, ecology, geology and history meet, carved into the living rock face, extracted boulders, constructed in shale or worked from the landscape itself.
PSQT project saved the quarry from further mineral extraction, invigorating new life and future for the quarry as a creative, leisure and educational resource, with a yearly programme of artists residencies, environmental mapping / monitoring, stone carving courses, school visits, community projects and performance events.
Just one year before the sculpture project began 30,000 tons of stone boulders were excavated from the labyrinths and gullies of Tout Quarry for sea defenses (same tonnage as used by Sir Christopher Wren in the building of the dome of St Paul’s Cathedral) with the Quarry previously used as a municipal refuse site, a Council Road Depot and for extensive fly tipping. The Sculpture Trust organized a programme of working parties, with artists and community working together to clear the quarry and its labyrinths and gullies of discarded household furniture, electrical appliances, remains of vehicles, with ‘metal rusting to obscurity’, filling over 20 skips.
The PSQT project has built up an extensive audio visual ’Living Land Archive’ © of interviews with the Portland quarrymen, stone masons and stone industry with primary source materials recorded over 30 years - that includes valuable data on the Portland landscape also by artists, earth scientists, ecologists as well as art / architectural uses of stone-all are integral to the understanding of Portland’s landscape. This invaluable archive, housed at the Drill Hall has been used amongst others by artists, researchers, earth scientists, community projects, TV / Radio features and broadcasts, as well as articles in newspapers and journals. The Living Land Archive is an artwork in its own right , recording Portland’s changing landscape over a significant period of time and supports the use of the Drill Hall Gallery as a research and project space to create, develop, test out and show new work.
The Drill Hall is a historical stone building, located at the centre of 11 contrasting quarry environments within a half mile radius, accessed by public footpaths, and connects through a newly restored tunnel to Tout Quarry Sculpture Park and Nature Reserve (part of PQNP). The building (5,000 sq ft) provides a platform for work in landscape – where it’s possible to connect the outside environment to the space inside through digital technology, arts installations, performance and procession.
Two Mineral Industry Sustainable Technology (M.I.S.T) research and development projects were initiated / led by PSQT with the support of Albion Stone plc, and 33 other partners, to develop a new model for regeneration resulting architectural designs and landforms for the environmental regeneration, education and sustainable after-use of quarry environments. PSQT applied a wealth of ideas influenced by its knowledge of the arts and science and working in the natural environment of Tout Quarry over many years – bringing a positive commitment to visionary new designs that involved community participation from over 2,000 people in professionally led design workshops. This lead to innovative designs for architectural features and new landforms constructed from quarry waste with the reinstatement of the fossil, record and creation of micro climates and habitats for maximum colonization. The R&D projects also resulted in new education and training courses working across disciplines and community groups, from the very young to older people that included; community health agencies, youth offending teams, local schools, colleges, and universities at BA / MA and professional research levels. The resulting model showed how benefits can be brought to a wide cross section of people and communities through involving them in carefully led design schemes where ideas flourished and new concepts emerged through the sharing and exchange of knowledge and skills – bringing both a global and local understanding of stone and our environment .
The inspiration for PSQT work is a landscape shaped by the elemental forces of nature and man, worked by hand over 28 generations of quarrying families on the island – where human time and the vastness of geological time visibly intersect – where stone holds evidence of life on earth, once part of another country, another time, and underpins the fragile layer of ecology on which we exist. With increasing global demand for the earth’s natural resources, PSQT re-visits stone at its source and develops a new model for education and regeneration that is necessary both for the land and our survival.
Mineral Industry Report MA/2/3/006: Independent Quarry: A new model for regeneration
Mineral Industry Report MA/5/3/007: Cultural Landscapes and Stories of the Earth