The Disappearing Sea

January to May 2014

“Don’t play whats’s there, play what’s not there”
Miles Davis (1926 – 1991)

The Disappearing Sea was an artist and community-led investigation of the material heritage of the fisher folk of Newhaven, as part of Fishing Folk.

Now a very different place than that of its heyday, this distinct costal community can trace a direct lineage, through the fishing industry, back to its foundation and the shipbuilding of the early 1500s.

Through visits to the Haven (a community café for older people), schools workshops with the local Victoria Primary School, community research visits to local collections and archives, and through a range of public and private events, the project worked to reinvigorate the many perspectives that define this place.

Project artists focused on investigating the ‘disappearance’ of the sea from Newhaven. The research involved; fieldwork – including taking rubbings on the breakwater, printmaking, photographic research, making stones and finally constructing an oilrig.

With pupils we curated a new display for the Wee Museum, including the creation of an interactive jigsaw illustrating land reclamation in and around Newhaven, caused by the expansion of nearby Leith Docks.

During the Leith Festival, we created a pop-up Wee Museum On Tour, exhibiting items in an old police box on Leith Walk. The project culminated with a special visit from Captain Mike Magee, the Harbour Master of Leith Docks, to the Wee Museum to see our collective work.



Uncovering new archive material, now held by the community and Victoria Primary School. A survey of the Victoria Primary School Collection, The redisplay of the Wee Museum, including an interactive exhibit demonstrating the timeline for land-reclamation around the Harbour.



The Haven café, Victoria Primary School, Newhaven Community History Group, Newhaven Heritage, Edinburgh Sculpture Workshop, the School of Scottish Studies – University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh Museums and Libraries.



The Heritage Lottery Fund

Online Archive

Keywords: Project, Local, Newhaven, Fishing, Heritage, Community, Museum


Project Lead: Johnny Gailey