The Living Coast Undersea Experience – how to see underwater!

Karen Poley, Creative Producer

In early 2014 I heard a talk by Rich Howarth from The Living Coast, the Brighton & Lewes Downs UNESCO World Biosphere Region, in which he mentioned that the Beachy Head West Marine Conservation Zone (MCZ) had just been designated off the coast of Brighton.  The MCZ runs between Brighton Marina & Beachy Head & out to see for a half a mile or so.   It is a unique chalk reef, created by waves eroding chalk cliffs along the coastline, & is home to abundant wildlife, including rare short-snouted seahorses & threatened species, such as blue mussel beds & native oysters. 

I was staggered!  I had no idea that anything was alive down there!  I know how daft that sounds, but I grew up on the Sussex coast in an era when people stopped going in the water following a few too many sewage spills.  Since then, I’ve never really gone back in, or ever thought that much about it.

My first thought now, was ‘How can we see the MCZ?’  And the answer is, that its pretty tricky unless you can dive, & even then there’s only a couple of weeks of the year that the water is clear enough to see much.   Obviously, most people can’t afford to dive, but surely everyone, especially the thousands living within a couple of miles of the MCZ, would want to see it if they could.

With a background in producing outdoor arts events, performances & community engagement projects, I wondered about creating an underwater MCZ experience in a street with giant projections & maybe some performance.  But it quickly became apparent that a ton of technology would be required &, to be viable, it would need to be filled with lots & lots & lots of people; hardly the ethereal & relatively quiet experience of being underwater. 

As I talked to various artists, creatives & technical people, I realised that hardly anyone knew about the Biosphere or MCZ designations, & helping raising awareness of these became a second key idea.

Simon Wilkinson of C!RCA69, suggested virtual reality, a relatively new technology utterly perfect for creating an immersive, underwater experience.  Being virtually in the marine environment, exploring the chalk gully formations & seeing marine life all around, is a powerful & awe inspiring, kinaesthetic experience.  Just like diving but without getting wet. 

In partnership with The Living Coast, Sussex IFCA (Inshore Fisheries & Conservation Authority) & Sussex Wildlife Trust, ideas developed around modelling the MCZ’s chalk reef to create a 3.5m square area for exploration, populated by a long, long list of marine plants & animals found locally. 

The result is an extraordinary & very real experience, which we are now starting to tour, as a pilot, to communities along the MCZ coastline.  The next dates are over the Easter holidays, starting with a trip to funders, the National Marine Aquarium in Plymouth, on 6th & 7th April. 

Further info & dates here:

Find us on Instagram @kpprojectscic & Twitter @kpprojectscic  & on Facebook /kpprojectscic

The Living Coast Undersea Experience is funded by Arts Council England, National Marine Aquarium, Sussex Community Foundation, South Downs National Park & Heritage Lottery Fund.

The Bicycle Ballet Ballet (working title)

Initial Concept Words & Ideas © The Bicycle Ballet Co

The Bicycle Ballet Ballet will merge ballet & contemporary dance with bicycles, to synthesize a new imagery for performance & cycling.

The project emerges in response to the idea that a rich, creative link exists between the technical skill & precision of a highly trained ballet dancer & the beautifully balanced mechanism of a bicycle.

This metaphor mimics the aesthetics of modernism, in which form follows function, & the machine aesthetic of Constructivism, merging with the body.  The project will draw on this influence in the design of both the dance & production (costumes, music, style).

The piece draws on the Modernist dream of the elegant city to present a tale of an idealised future.  Tapping into contemporary visions of repurposing & remaking, where the city is free from choking pollution & traffic congestion; the streets reimagined as spaces for people; ease of travel & everyone living & moving in harmony.  The bicycle is the ‘ideal’ machine to cut through traffic, offering liberation, health & possibility.

Underpinning the concept is The Bicycle Ballet Company’s commitment to change the way people think about riding bicycles.  Reframing cycling here as an activity of elegance & excellence to interrupt cycling stereotypes & help encourage people, including ballet dancers, to ride.

The piece will be flexible, to be performed by six dancers in a variety of spaces, & even move through & between places.  It will be created for touring & sustainability, with participatory opportunities.  Choreographed by Virginia Farman in collaboration with Creative Producer Karen Poley.

Blazing Saddles

A group of women in blue & pink late 18th century long skirts & puffed sleeves walk down the roadA new show from The Bicycle Ballet Company, created in 2016/7, will be developed in 2018 to further explore the history of women & cycling & fashion & its relevance today.

In particular, we are interested in extending the potential for engaging with local communities, working with a wide range of people, community groups & organisations, to explore the ideas behind the show & to create arts & heritage activities with & for local communities.

Find out more about the show & future ideas in this short presentation, made to delegates of Xtrax Shorts, at the Out There Festival in Great Yarmouth September 2017.  Click HERE to watch

More info on the show HERE

The Living Coast Undersea Experience

The Living Coast Undersea Experience is an interactive, virtual reality & 360 experience, enabling users to explore the underwater environment of the Beachy Head West Marine Conservation Zone (BHW MCZ), which runs between Brighton Marina & Beachy Head, without getting wet!

The 2019 pilot tour has been an amazing success. To date, two versions (a VR installation & a 360 film) have visited 18 venues, including community centres, visitor centres, arts venues, an aquarium, a museum, an outdoor event, three primary schools & a STEM event for secondary schools, over 28 days.

An incredible 2,455 people dived underwater with us & the feedback was overwhelmingly positive, with many inspired to change their behaviour to help conserve the marine environment. Find out what YOU can do to help

Check out some of the drawings from some of our younger users Here

Going forward, we aim to continue developing education & interpretation materials, research into the project’s impact, & extending touring into local communities beyond the MCZ coastline & into the wider region across The Living Coast, South Downs National Park, Sussex Heritage Coast & the new MCZ, Beachy Head East.

How you can get involved…

  • Volunteering opportunities, more here…
  • If you are a school or community venue along the MCZ coastline, & are interested in presenting TLC Undersea Experience, we are looking for partners for funding bids to continue touring in 2020 & beyond.  Please get in touch:
  • There are exciting & engaging sponsorship opportunities & the project needs patrons & funders to help develop subsequent touring opportunities for this amazing project across the Biosphere region to schools, community centres & venues.  Please get in touch for further information:

Delighted to share this short film of the Pilot Tour 2019:

Have a look at TLC Undersea Experience:

The Experience aims to:

  • Open up one of the UK’s most unique marine environments to everyone, without getting wet!
  • Raise awareness of the Marine Conservation Zone on our doorstep, which runs from Brighton Marina to Beachy Head & is home to one of the world’s only chalk reefs, with unique species of plant & animal life, & which only a fraction of people know about.
  • Be a powerful kinaesthetic & educational experience to help people understand the environment & the things we can all do to help conserve it.

 Read a blog from the Producer HERE; an outline from our partner, The Living Coast; & see another snippet, HERE:

The Living Coast Undersea Experience is created by Simon Wilkinson of C!RCA69 & Karen Poley of KP Projects CIC; The Living Coast Brighton & Lewes Downs, UNESCO designated Biosphere Region; Sussex Inshore Fisheries & Conservation Authority (IFCA); & Sussex Wildlife Trust.

NHS Stories

An interactive, outdoor exhibition conceived as a way of creating a significant ‘guerilla’ art activity during Brighton Festival 2017, to raise awareness of the cuts & re-organisations to the NHS, & is part of KP’s ongoing exploration of presenting digital storytelling in unexpected outdoor locations.  


Created in In collaboration with Ray Gibson (Raysto Images), Dr Sarah Anderson, Sussex Defend the NHS & internationally acclaimed photographer & artist JR & the Inside Out project.


Subjects were activists & passers by, plucked off the streets or from a pub round the corner, who told their stories & concerns about the NHS whilst be photographed & recorded.

The photos were blown up & printed as part of internationally acclaimed photographer & artist, JR’s Inside Out project.

Images, film or audio were edited together under the auspices of virtual reality app, Aurasma, to make posters come to live.  Click on the instructions to the left, or see a couple of the films below.













Freelance Project Assistant Required

KP Projects CIC is looking for a versatile, highly motivated & reliable individual to provide project assistance to the Creative Producer & other members of the freelance team, as required, across all areas of the company’s work. The ideal candidate will be hard working, flexible & capable of undertaking a wide variety of tasks that will differ from day to day.

Freelance, 1.5-2 days per week, plus additional days project work, depending on funding. Days & hours of work are flexible. Initial six month contract with potential to extend.

Fee: £18,000 – £24,000 pro rata.


Work might include a variety of tasks including, but not limited to:

  • Project administration, tour booking & administration, community outreach & liaison
  • Fundraising, research into trusts & foundations & drafting applications
  • Copy writing & social media


  • At least 1 years experience of working in the arts & arts administration
  • Excellent verbal & written communication skills
  • Enthusiastic, versatile & a quick learner, prepared to adapt readily to the rapidly changing needs of the work load
  • Good comprehension skills & an aptitude for problem solving
  • Excellent understanding of Microsoft Office
  • Excellent organisational & time management skills
  • Good internet/phone connection & regular meetings in Brighton.


Please apply by 5pm on 30 January 2017 with the following information:

  • Letter of application explaining your interest in the post, your experience & suitability for the role, & why you would like to work with us.
  • CV, maximum 2 pages, outlining educational & work experience
  • Names of two referees, if called for interview

Please send your application by email to Karen Poley,

Interviews on Monday 6 February, in Brighton.

KP Projects CIC works with a range of partners to create intriguing, engaging & thought-provoking outdoor arts for the widest audiences, around cycling, walking, healthy lifestyles, environmental issues & awareness of local environments. Ongoing projects include The Bicycle Ballet Co, currently celebrating its 10th anniversary.

KP Projects has recently constituted as a not-for-profit, community interest company, & has been awarded Catalyst Evolve funding from Arts Council England, as part of the Carrot consortium, with Red Herring & Bureau of Silly Ideas.

The company is led by Creative Producer, Karen Poley, in collaboration with a wide range of freelance artists, creatives, performers & production experts.


The Great Pebble Dash

4 images, gradually moving away from a pebble face drawingA high speed game for all the family, which plays out across a town or festival location, to find tiny, ‘pebbleface’ artworks drawn by artist Raysto.

Players follow visual & animated clues posted online throughout the day.  After finding the general location, players must match the shapes, textures & patterns in the landscape, as they are gradually revealed, to find the pebblefaces.

The pebblefaces are drawn on local stones, inspired by the shapes, shades & textures of their geological formations.  The faces are ‘cute & tactile, with surprisingly vivid expressions,’ (The Independent 23 May 2007)

Lots of potential to develop routes, locations, possibilities for workshops & linking in with marketing & PR.

Further info:

Commissioned by the University of Brighton for the fourth international Visual Methods Conference, Sept 2015.


Strictly Night Cycling

Silhouette of a bike against a sunset skyA further development of the successful, outdoor show, Strictly Cycling.  Combining an entertaining performance with a strong, light-hearted, road safety message to ‘light up’ and be seen on bikes after dark.

The yellow cycling capes will glow like belisha beacons, lit from underneath, with either LED wire or strings of small LED bulbs, powered by battery.  Reflective materials will be worked into helmets, goggles, socks & fingers to give extra impact and brightness, and lights or reflectors added to wheels.

The choreography & improvisational structures will be further developed to create new interactions, movements, sculptural and other set pieces to enable performers to accommodate the lights & technology.