100 Things to do in (and around) Bournemouth 73 – Arts by the Sea

Arts by the Sea is Bournemouth’s annual arts festival. Held every autumn, it consists of a mixture of art installations, music, dance, theatre and all manner of other performances. This year, the weekend long arts extravaganza was rounded off with a parade on Sunday evening.

Arts by the Sea 2022
Arts by the Sea 2022

2022 – Play

I’ve been to Arts by the Sea several times, but this year was something else. I was amazed how busy it was, with people queuing for over an hour to enter the Luminarium. My theory is that since everything was closed during lockdown, people are now more intent on going out and enjoying themselves when they can. My friend thinks that it’s because it was free and due to the cost of living crisis, everyone is skint.

Arts by the Sea 2022 Logo
2022 Logo

This year’s theme was Play. The theme certainly made the event even more popular for families with young children and there was plenty of laughter and squealing to be heard around town as the young (and the old) enjoyed watching, listening to and interacting with the various projects.

Arts by the sea Parade
Carnival Parade

The Luminarium

This year saw three main installations: The Luminarium is a ‘pneumatic sculpture’, consisting of a labyrinth of inflated shapes, which you can climb into to enjoy a display of light and colour. It looked pretty cool, but I’ll be honest, I’m not the most patient person. We went on Saturday, saw the length of the queue and decided to skip it. On Sunday, we went again hoping it would be less busy. They had closed the queue because it was too long. It was a bit like the Queen’s coffin all over again. In a upside down bouncy castle in Bournemouth.

The Luminarium from the outside
The Luminarium from the outside

I don’t usually post photos I haven’t taken myself, but here is one similar to what I might have taken inside if I was a more patient person with a more British attitude to queuing.

The Luminarium from the inside

The Nectary

The Nectary consists of large flowers hanging from a gazebo in the gardens. They emit bee sounds, thus inviting visitors to ‘immerse themselves in nature as they mimic a pollinating insect moving between giant glowing flowers’. It was particularly popular with small children and there was plenty of giggling every time the bee noises started up. The illuminated flowers looked particularly striking after dusk.

The Nectary by day
The Nectary by day
The Nectary by night
The Nectary by night

Airship Orchestra

To quote the organisers, The Airship Orchestra is ‘a mystical tribe of otherworldly characters beamed from the night stars, skin streaked with galaxy and voices like stardust. Visitors are beckoned inside the formation to bathe in volumetric sound and rhythmic light pulsation’. The installation’s large inflatable figures, which emitted sound and light, were very popular with small children (and adults!) who were keen to bounce on the giant Weeble-like figures, causing them to wobble and blink with their LED eyes. I did actually hear one mother tell her child off, saying: “It’s Art. You mustn’t touch it!” Which I thought was a bit sad. Isn’t that kind of the point?

Airship Orchestra by day
Airship Orchestra by day

Again the Airship Orchestra really came into its own after dusk when the illuminations and blinking eyes were more distinct.

Airship Orchestra by day
Airship Orchestra by day

Carnival by the Sea

As already mentioned, the weekend culminated in a parade consisting of musicians, dancers, flag bearers and giant puppet figures. The puppeteers, volunteers from the local community, were great at making their puppets interact with the crowd, waving and high fiving and so on. When I tried to take a photo of an Indian puppets, it bent over and patted me on the head, which scared the living daylights out of me.


The carnival was fun and very popular, particular the puppets. It was a fitting way to round off a great weekend of artsy entertainment. Hopefully, the parade will reappear bigger and better on next year’s programme.


Other Attractions

Press Play

Press Play, a display of sound and light on the Town Hall, was supposed to get the weekend off to a spectacular start on Friday evening. Unfortunately, the weather was atrocious and it was more a matter of press pause as events had to be postponed or brought inside. This meant that I missed Press Play, which was a shame as I saw pictures later online at it looked amazing. I don’t usually post photos I haven’t taken myself, but here is one similar to what I might have taken if it hadn’t rained causing the schedule to be changed, which I subsequently misread…

Press Play

In addition to the big installations, the town centre, gardens and prom were filled with a mixture of singers, musicians and other performers, skateboarders, a mobile disco and much more.

Previous Years

2017 – Plastic Beach

The first year I came to Bournemouth, in 2017, the theme was Plastic Beach, focusing on the the need to recycle more single use plastic which all too often ends up on our beached. This saw such events as people dressed in rubbish wandering round the gardens. And a large bottle was built on the beach made from plastic bottles retrieved from the sea.

2017 - Plastic Beach
2017 – Plastic Beach
2017 - Plastic Beach
2017 – Plastic Beach

2020 – Journeys

Not surprisingly, 2020 was a scaled down affair, due to Covid, but there was a festival. The main installations were well spaced out across Bournemouth and Poole, so we tried to fit as many as possible into our own journey; a Sunday morning run.

2020 – Journey

The year was not without controversy; The Windbreak by Cold War Steve was two sided, with a ‘hopeful’ side and a ‘dark’ side. The dark side featured, among other things, a naked Boris Johnson chasing a pig. This did not go down well with the local (Conservative) council and in the end, only one side was displayed!

The Windbreak's Hopeful side
The Windbreak’s Hopeful side

I don’t usually post photos I haven’t taken myself, but here is one similar to what I might have taken if the work hadn’t been censored by the council.

The Windbreak – censored version

2021 – Connect

2021 coincide with me starting a new job and I spent the weekend in a darkened room, remembering why I’d previously already decided to retire! Then ventured forth in search of wine. But for those who were inclined to spend their weekend in a more cultural, less alcohol fuelled manner, the theme was Connect.

How I spent so21


Details for 2023 are yet to be announced. Watch this space, as they say…


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