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Time and Tide Bell

A Continuing Arts Programme facing Lincolnshire's Coast




Warming Bells

At the North Sea Observatory, Chapel Point, Lincolnshire PE24 5XA

Open daily 10am to 5pm Wednesday 28th August to Sunday 8th September 2019

Admission Free

We are a group of artists and arts promoters who recognize the potential existential threat of global warming and are determined to use the arts to communicate our concerns to our audiences.

Our art exhibitions emerge from the conceptual basis of Marcus Vergette's Time and Tide Bells, stimulating conversations about human relationships with the sea, past, present and future, mindful of the global warming and the social stresses that climate change and sea level rise may bring.

This exhibition connects bells with global warming, looking at the place of bells in our cultural landscape through history and their power to sound a warning of the damage we are doing to our environment.

Works are to be commissioned that might raise awareness and stimulate conversations about bells of all sorts and all purposes, and also about global warming and climate change and the consequences for humanity and other life on Earth. We seek to link the two, using bells to warn us of our dangerous predicament. Artists are invited to produce writing that engages the audience with how their work relates to the themes of the exhibition. Their work, in image and word, will be published here on this website and in the forthcoming book, 'Warming Bells'.

Participating artists:

If you would like to be one send us an email.



Time and Tide Bell after Dulac - Biff Vernon
Oil on wood panel 60 x 40 cm


The Bells - Edmund Dulac.
Ink and watercolour drawing 374 by 270mm.

The third, of three, colour plates to illustrate Edgar Allan Poe's poem, 'The Bells' and reproduced within 'The Bells and Other Poems' (Hodder and Stoughton, 1912). The illustration, which is dated 1912, accompanies this text:
They are neither man nor woman -
They are neither brute not human -
They are Ghouls:
And their king it is who tolls.

The full text of Edgar Allan Poe's poem is available here

The poem starts merrily enough, "Hear the sledges with the bells - Silver bells! - What a world of merriment their melody foretells! ... How they tinkle, tinkle, tinkle, - In the icy air of night!"
And in the second verse: "Hear the mellow wedding bells, - Golden bells! - What a world of happiness their harmony foretells! - Through the balmy air of night - How they ring out their delight!"
But in verse III we have: "Hear the loud alarum bells - Brazen bells! - What tale of terror, now, their turbulency tells! - In the startled ear of night"
And by the fourth verse the story turns seriously grim.
Now, about 170 years after it was written, we can reinterpret Poe's poem in terms of our realisation of the impact of the planetary heating we are causing. But read it for yourself.

Bells have a long-standing place in our culture.

Bells generally evoke positive emotions as they are associated with joyful events, Christmas, weddings etc but also have a darker side, occasionally rung muffled at funerals and often used as a warning in alarm bells and signals of emergency. The Lutine Bell was traditionally rung at Lloyds of London to announce safe arrival or loss of a ship. Bells on marine buoys warn of shoals and channel edges. Bells are used as announcers of time, clock chimes and alarms to wake the sleeping. At sea, the watches of the day are defined by the ship's bell. In factories bells announce shift changes and school lessons begin and end with bells.

Hand-bells were rung by town-criers to draw attention to their announcements. Telephone bells announce a call and some replicate a bell sound as their mobile phone ring-tone. Even a 'ring-tone' contains a 'ring'. The Facebook icon for 'notifications' is a bell.

Notwithstanding the negative associations that bells sometimes present, the overwhelming response to bells, particularly large bronze bells rung for communal purposes, is positive. Historically, the manufacture and installation of bells have been significant undertakings with effort and costs shared widely and willingly. The skill and craftmanship involved in their making and the durability of bells ensure appreciation of their value.

A large proportion of Britain's population live within earshot of church-bells. Bells have been the constant sonic background to our lives, chiming the hours and ringing the changes. Yet curiously, images of bells are all but absent from British art. In Russia, where bells are rung by pulling a rope attached to the clapper and are often visible from the ground, there are many paintings of bells, but the British tradition of 'full circle' ringing means bells are high up in the belfry, heard and not seen, out of sight but not out of mind.

This project, Warming Bells, seeks to appropriate the cultural inheritance of bells to promote discussion of global warming, creating an association between ideas about bells and environmental dangers.



The Tennis Game - Biff Vernon 1978
Oil on wood panel 60 x 80 cm

Inspired by David Inshaw's Badminton Game, 'The Tennis Game' is evocative of the apparent stability of England, with its substantial country house and two girls playing an idle game in the garden, oblivious of the coming climate catastrophe. It was painted in 1978 long before global warming was much discussed outside some very limited academic circles. By then, however, the essentials of the science were established and understood by those willing to engage. Had society heeded and acted upon the warnings that were available 40 years ago, the present crisis might have been averted.

Reminiscing the Game - Biff Vernon 1978
Oil on wood panel 60 x 80 cm

'Reminiscing the Game' sees one of the players, older, racket by her side, looking back into her memories of that perceived stability now that the world has changed. The garden is consumed by desert following runaway global warming. William Holman Hunt's Scapegoat stands nearby, ready to absorb the sins of humanity in their neglect for the environment. Both painted in 1978, the pair of pictures foresee the coming climate catastrophe years before global warming became a universal concern.


Just what are the issues in the frame? Here are some climate science basics. First let's be clear about words. Global warming is just what is says: the warming of the planet that is now going on as a result of our emission of, mostly, carbon dioxide, along with methane and a few other things. Since the start of the industrial revolution we have sent about 1 degree Celsius of warming averaged across the globe, more near the poles, less equatorially. Global warming causes climate change. Climate change is just what it says, a change in the climate. Depending on where one is, it might get wetter or drier, hotter or colder, stormier or calmer. Humans tend to be creatures of habit; we get used to prevailing conditions and adapt accordingly. Change tends to be disruptive. For some, for a while, climate change might bring more days of nice weather but mostly the changes are on the bad side with more extreme weather, be it floods or droughts, storms or heat waves. During the foreseeable future, the lifetimes of today's young children, deserts will expand and some places will experience that combination of heat and humidity that makes life without air conditioning physically impossible. Sea level will rise, forcing millions to migrate, abandoning some of the world's richest agricultural land.

For future generations life becomes ever more precarious. The current trajectory we are on, increasing the atmosphere's CO2 content by over 2ppm each year, leads us to global warming of 4 or 5 degrees. We have very little idea about how much of the planet will then become uninhabitable or how quickly the melting of the great ice sheets will flood all low-lying lands. It is here that science becomes dominated by uncertainty, though we can be sure that the range of probability is skewed to the bad side. And it is here that the artist has to take over, augmenting the scientists' work with interpretation accessible to their wider audiences.



Extinction Symbol for the Extinction Rebellion - Biff Vernon 2017
Oil on wood board 30 x 25 cm

The symbol above represents extinction. The circle signifies the planet, while the hourglass inside serves as a warning that time is rapidly running out for many species. The world is currently undergoing a mass extinction event, and this symbol is intended to help raise awareness of the urgent need for change in order to address this crisis. Estimates are that somewhere between 30,000 and 140,000 species are becoming extinct every year in what scientists have named the Anthropocene, or Sixth Mass Extinction. This ongoing process of destruction is being caused by the impact of human activity. Within the next few decades approximately 50% of all species that now exist will have become extinct. Such a catastrophic loss of biodiversity is highly likely to cause widespread ecosystem collapse and consequently render the planet uninhabitable for humans.


Extinction Symbols - Biff Vernon

Oil on canvas 65 x 40 cm

The Extinction Symbol has been adopted by Extinction Rebellion

"In order to spread the message as widely as possible, please create this symbol in any location you feel able to. Thank you." The Extinction Symbol




Sequestered Carbon ~ Biff Vernon

Coal, stained glass and lead 16 x 16 x 8 cm.

If human civilisation is to survive, most fossil carbon must be left in the ground. Four pieces of coal are safely encased in cubes of hand-made, mouth-blown stained-glass from Poland. By keeping the carbon in the ground we can mitigate climate change, slowing down the rate of warming and the rate of sea level rise, giving more time for adaptation and lessening the impact of forced migration. The Hawkmoth Effect ensures uncertainty about the rates of change but we are sure of the direction of travel.



Carbon Capture and Storage Plant - Biff Vernon
Oil on wood panel 44 x 56 cm

The arts have developed over the past several thousand years of the Holocene, an epoch of climate stability. Now, as a result of man's pollution of the atmosphere, that stability is upset; the climate regime in which the arts have flourished is broken.

The Lincolnshire Time and Tide Bell Community Interest Company is an arts organization dedicated to using the arts in environmental campaigning. During 2018 our major exhibitions have been 'Across the Seas' at the Sam Scorer Gallery, Lincoln, in May, dealing with human migrations in the past, the present and the future and '#200Fish' in August at the North Sea Observatory. This presented artworks based on the over 200 species of fish found in the North Sea, bringing to audiences attention the rich biodiversity of marine life. In November 2018 we presented 'By the Sea', an exhibition, again at the North Sea Observatory, that brought a contemporary view of Lincolnshire's natural coastal landscape, and dealt with issues such as sea level changes in the past and in the future and pollution of the marine environment.

Each of these exhibitions referenced global warming though the matter was not the central issue. In our new project, Warming Bell, we confront global warming directly. We are inviting artists to create works that address what we see as an existential crisis, a problem of our own making, which has within itself the possibility, at worst, of ending human life, at best making life a catastrophic disaster for some.

So what do we want in an art exhibition about bells and global warming and that links the two? Well that's really up to you, the participating artists. We didn't say it was easy; not like providing a list of fish and saying go paint a fish. But we trust in the infinite creativity of artists to be able to find the language required, to help in whatever small way possible to alter humanity's trajectory. Then at least we may look our grandchildren in the eye and say that we tried to be part of the solution rather than part of the problem.


The Ringers of Launcells Tower - Frederick Smallfield (1829 - 1915)
Oil on canvas 91 x 71 cm 1887 Royal Cornwall Museum

The practicalities. The Warming Bells exhibition takes place at the end of August 2019. First we must do the work and then set about gathering it together. The first thing to do is decide if you would like to be a part of this project and if so then send an email to get yourself on the list. Then start creating some art. Use whatever medium you like. This website can show all the work. Online, it can be a dynamic space, continuously subject to editing and change and indefinitely expandable. Feel free to share unfinished work if you wish. It can be altered and added to but may have value as work in progress.

And write about your subject. A thousand words are worth a picture and your writing can enhance the artwork's story. And tell us about yourself and your motivations. To publish your material in the book, visual and written, we need it before the end of May 2019.

Space is limited in the gallery at the North Sea Observatory so there will be a bit of first come first serve to get included in the exhibition. We don't judge the artistic merit of works; it's your responsibility to do your best, whether professional, amateur or student. If you wish to try to sell your work that's fine and we do not take any commission. Of course if you do not need the money we are happy to accept your work as a gift to help us with future projects.

First step to get involved: send us an email.



We are a Community Arts Group bringing Marcus Vergette's sculpture to the Lincolnshire Coast, one part of a permanent installation of Time and Tide Bells around Britain's coast, rung by the sea at high tide.
We aim to spark conversations about the coastline's past, present and future with a programme of art exhibitions and events


Lincolnshire Time and Tide Bell Community Interest Company is a not-for profit organisation, registered at Companies House. Company Number 10934941