The Outdoor Cultures strand is an integral part of the Creative Peninsula project, building on the AHRC Rapid Response project Outside the Box. This strand, comprising two Creative Peninsula commissions, is concerned with the cultural identity of the region as a place where outdoor activities are among the most vibrant in the country.

These activities include orienteering, surfing, plein air painting, horticulture, boating and regattas, carnival, al fresco eating, outdoor swimming, open air theatre, and many more. We are interested in the environmental connections forged between people and place through performances and events of various kinds, and the challenges and benefits of outdoor activities. The histories of these activities in Devon and Cornwall are often remarkable, and under-appreciated, and so part of our focus is on bringing these into dialogue with the present.

For the Creative Peninsula project, we have curated two outdoor performances, one in Devon and one in Cornwall. The brief was to engage with another form of outdoor culture in the region. The first, Who Do You Think Should Save Us? (Jane Mason, Grace Surman and Gary Winters) engaged with outdoor swimmers and volunteer lifeguards to present a day of performances on Exmouth beach. 
The second, Field Day (Small Acts), worked with volunteers from the community garden project, Loveland, in Penryn. Performance is one way to gather up and hold some of the tensions and pleasures of 
these activities and make them more available to critical reflection 
and appreciation.

Exmouth Art Film 17 July22
Photo (Julia Weir): Jane Mason in ‘Who Do You Think Should Save Us?’
We are interested in the environmental connections forged between people and place through performances and events.

Outdoor Cultures has emerged as a focus through a number of research projects, bringing together the research of Evelyn O’Malley and Cathy Turner, and through this interest, we are reaching out to wider networks concerned with the outdoor cultures of the South West peninsula and beyond. We also bring to this research our previous individual investigations into audiences, weathering, porous dramaturgies, site-specific performance, walking and more.

Our collaborative projects include:

Outside the Box, an AHRC-funded response to the Covid-19 pandemic including a programme of live performances.

Green Stages, a project funded by the University of Exeter and comprising a series of talks, workshops and symposia, and the development of an outdoor theatre on Streatham Campus.

O-P-E-N (the Open air Performance and Environment Network) was established in 2021 by us and our colleagues across the University of Exeter, including associated artist-researchers, to support wider dialogues around outdoor cultures, with a strong, but not exclusive focus on theatre and live art.