November 05, 2015

Rory McCormack, Beach flint sculpture garden

overall view, from the website Grotto Directory

Facing the Channel, the English city of Brighton and Hove, currently a busy seaside resort, in former times had an important fishing industry. Today Rory McCormack is the last one of a once larger number of beach fishermen who went fishing by moving their boat from the beach into the sea.. 

Life and works

Born in 1955, McCormack came to live in Brighton in 1960. Already involved in fishing at sea at age 16, he became a dry stone waller, but eventually around 2000 he became a beach fisherman, his boat and gear stabled on a part of the beach locally known as Kemp Town Beach.

At that time there were several beach fishermen who left their boats on the beach and the town had provided concrete slabs to facilitate the parking of these boats. But with changing times this way of leaving behind boats and gear was no longer safe, and McCormack in order to protect his fishing equipment, had to fence the part of the beach he used.

this picture and the next two courtesy of Yvonne Luna

Soon he installed a workbench where he repaired his fishing gear and did other DIY jobs. It is not difficult to understand that McCormack gradually came to regard this secluded part of the public beach as his own little world.

The winter of 2013 was severe, McCormack had little to do and somehow he came up wit the idea to make sculptures from cement, supplemented with the flints and shells available on the beach. He hadn't any artistic education and he invented himself how to make his creations. To model the sculptures he used pictures in an art book he owned.

The around eight, generally more than life-size sculptures he had made when this ost was published (2015), have a robust and quirky appearance. Combined with other creations such as an arcade as an entry, a throne and a grave with a bronze age skeleton, these creations jointly constituted a characteristic art environment.

Some items in this art environment have a link to ancient mythology, as demonstrated for example in a sculpture inspired by the Venus of Willendorf and in a sculpture that represents a Sumerian goddess cradling a child

The survival of the site was threatened

McCormack began this art environment without asking permission to do so, just as so many other creators of art environments anywhere in the world have done. After more than two years the local authorities showed themselves aware of the existence of the site and around September 2015 the removal of the sculptures was decreed,  this because they might be dangerous for people around.

Many friends of the site did not agree with this and and they advocated the survival of this art environment.

In October 2015 a petition was organized, asking the authorities to protect the beach flint garden. In the years that followed, the council took no further action. In September 2024 he site still existed.

* Article on the website Grotto Directory (undated, probably around 2015)
* Article (October 15, 2015) in local journal Bright & Hove news
* Article on Atlas Obscura (2015)
* Article by Kate Davey, "Rory McCormack's flint grotto", in Raw Vision #93 (spring 2017)
Rory McCormack interviewed by David Clegg oSoundcloud  (October 2018, 27"02); this interview also became available on the website The Keepers Project (2020)
Article (July 2019) by Becky Waldron in local newspaper Brighton Journal

* Video The Latest TV  (2'04", uploaded October 7, 2015, YouTube)

Rory McCormack's recent activities

In recent years McCormack has created a number of sculptures, which he situated in his allotment garden located on a hill just outside Brighton.
Information about this in:
* Raw Vision, summer 2023
* Website Keepers Project
The intention is to devote a separate article to this.

first published November 2015, last revised September 2023

Rory McCormack
Beach flint sculpture garden
on Kemp town beach
Brighton, East Sussex, South East England, UK
can be seen from the beach

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