Shore to Shore is a long-term project to create spaces for encounter between Morocco and the UK. These spaces may be physical – like gardens or stages – or they may be spaces of the mind, times when individuals and groups meet to take part in some activity, debate or planning, for entertainment and in the hope of creating greater understanding. The project reflects the fascination that Morocco and England seem to exert over each other. Both excite expectations and misconceptions. They also have more history in common than many people realise. Shore to Shore focuses on this history, especially the 17th century, a time when trade and diplomatic relations created new links. Similar spices and herbs can be found in may English and Moroccan dishes. Musical instruments, building techniques and even dance themes trace links up and down from North Africa to Northern Europe, often via Spain. Slaves were traded in both directions. Faith was at the centre of life in both countries in the 17th century. And of course everyone knows Shakespeare and his immortal stories.
For ten days nearly 30 artists, musicians, cooks, gardeners, designers, dancers, puppeteers, photographers and textile students worked with Moroccan young people and professionals to create the 2014 SHORE TO SHORE festival in Essaouira and Marrakesh. The theme was ‘Gardens and Storytelling’ and in the course of the festival we set up plenty of opportunities for encounter.
REEP created three major gardens in Morocco as part of the 2014 Shore to Shore Project. The creation of the three gardens took place over a three week period in the run up the Shore to Shore Festival, which took place in Essaouira and Marrakech in late March and early April 2014. Many Moroccan craftsmen and labourers were involved in the creation of the gardens, as well as a number of British and Moroccan volunteers. The Martin McLaren Memorial Trust gave bursaries for three young gardeners to take part. They were chosen from National Trust gardens with the kind help of Mike Calnan, Head of Parks and Gardens at the Trust.
While each of the three gardens below is very different in character, all are intended to educate young people about horticulture and stewardship of their environment and to provide them with a place of reflection and respite.
Three young Martin McLaren Trust gardeners were given leave from their National Trust posts to take part in the creation of REEP’s three 2014 SHORE TO SHORE gardens. Read what they have to say about their experiences working for REEP in Morocco in their reports by clicking on the links below.
In 2004 Alison Atkinson’s fascinating play Entertaining Morocco was produced in London to critical acclaim. Its exploration of the emotions of a group of church people captured from the Devon coast by the Barbary Pirates in the 17th century was full of fascinating questions about ambivalence, fear and attraction of the new and other, faith and relations between individuals. This was a marvellous metaphor for the eternal questions of life – questions that are still experienced and still provoke debate today.
Although it proved impossible to perform the play in Morocco, Alison’s vision of the Call to Prayer and the Lord’s Prayer being sung alongside one another were brought to life through the original musicians; Diana Lazenby, Shore to Shore Director, who lived part-time in Morocco, and Richard McLaren took Tamsin Lewis, violinist Director of Passamezzo, to hold a musical conversation with Abdou El Haak, a very fine sufi singer, in the context of the Fez Festival of Sacred Music. A musical dialogue was born and from this first encounter the project just grew. The aim was to go beyond words and to keep young people at the heart of the encounter.
In a world of argument, conflict, greed and misunderstanding, how can we build bridges and keep a sense of awe, wonder, respect and purpose? This is the vital question that motivates REEP and the SHORE TO SHORE project.
Morocco and England both exercise fascination on their respective populations. Both excite expectations and misconceptions. They also have more history in common than many may realise. SHORE TO SHORE has chosen to focus initially on the 17th century, a time when trade and diplomatic relations created new links. Similar spices and herbs can be found in many English and Moroccan dishes, musical instruments, building techniques, even dance themes trace links up and down from North Africa to Northern Europe, often via Spain. Faith was at the centre of life in both countries in the 17th century. And of course everyone knows Shakespeare and his immortal stories.
Today it is possible to fly to Morocco from the UK in just over three hours. Once there, it is easy to take hundreds of digital photographs to bring home to share with friends and family. But for most of the preceding four centuries the journey would have taken weeks. Few people would have had first-hand experience of making such an arduous voyage. Reports from travellers could help bridge the gap but, in the absence of personal contact, most people filled the inevitable gaps in such second-hand accounts by using their imagination.
Under the headings below REEP expert Dr Graeme Watson looks at some examples of how Morocco was imagined by British people in the days when travel between the two countries was a risky adventure.
Everyone loves a garden. Food, leisure, beauty, meeting points, cultural references – these and many more are the ways gardens enhance our lives. Morocco and England are particularly known for their gardening heritage and a recognition of how it can bring greater spiritual awareness.
REEP has been working on Moroccan and English gardens since 2009, notably the Islam Expo Garden created in 2010 with Emma Clarke and the Rendezvous Garden in the school section of the Jardin’Art Festival at the Menara Gardens in Marrakesh, together with the roof garden at a secondary school in East London. Our SHORE TO SHORE Festival has always included gardening, calling on English Renaissance and Islamic traditions to show ways that gardening (and other) traditions speak to one another, with a twist for today’s world.