Time and Tide Bells were created by sculptor and musician Marcus Vergette. His design is unique both for the harmonic structure of the bells, and that they are rung by the tidal energy of the sea. Marcus conceived the bells in the context of sea level rise to contemplate our relationship to the sea, that gives and takes, as it wraps around the coast of Britain twice a day. Bells tell stories, it is the same bell that rings a wedding as a funeral.
One of the unique features of this project is the period over which it has been sustained. Marcus started research on the design of the bell, to create a shape that would be rich in harmonics, in 2008.
The first installation was in Appledore, Devon in the next year, and they followed every year or two for the next decade. As the project grew and evolved, its richness became ever clearer; above all, its potential to act as the focus, the crucible or springboard, for further creative activity, be it artistic, educational, and more.
The Bells have a unique position as public artworks. They are not commissions; no individual, developer, local authority or other institution has paid the artist to make them for particular locations. Although a number of copies have been and will continue to be made, they are not in the conventional sense an ‘edition’, let alone are they numbered. They offer very limited recognition for the artist; they are not vehicles for an ego.
What they are is a gift to the host community, and owned, in every sense, by them. A gift both literal and metaphorical; to date the funding structure has covered the cost of their casting ‘centrally’; and completely free rein has been given to communities in the form of their mounting, their naming, and the inscriptions they bear. All installations have come about because by one means or another – often by visiting an existing bell – potential hosts have embarked on the very substantial labour of getting a bell installed.
Funding for early bells came in part from the Arts Council, but very largely from private funds raised by Marcus. In 2018 a grant was provided from the National Lottery Community Fund.