'Caught in the Net' - Sarah Acton

An intergeneration celebration of Chesil beach & traditional mackerel fishing though song, movement and dance performance.

Caught in the Net performers (c) Justin P Brown


This project was awarded Sustainable Development Fund support in 2023-24 to help deliver our Management Plan objectives B1a – to support and develop activities that increase health and wellbeing by establishing and strengthening connections to the landscape and nature B4e – to promote and support the celebration and conservation of local distinctiveness.

  • SDF grant awarded: £1500
  • Other sources of funding: Dorset Performing Arts Fund, Arts Council, Dorset Council, ticket sales and volunteer time
  • % of total funding awarded: 23%

Building upon the success of Project Manager, Sarah Acton’s book ‘Seining Along Chesil,’ celebrating the heritage of mackerel fishing, this Research & Design project aimed to continue the story by connecting local people to Seine traditions through a site specific show of story, song and dance.

It created an opportunity to bring artists and volunteer performers together to create an original piece of outdoors  performance work, weaving in themes of sustainable fishing, Seine traditions and contemporary relationships to coastal landscape and sea. The learning outcomes of this project will be used to go onto shape future performances.


The project aimed to:

Reach people facing the cost of living crisis who would not usually engage with performative arts  or go to see a show about their local area or feel a connection to coastal heritage / Dorset mackerel seasons.

Offer performative arts activities and a performance relevant to the place they live and that is relevant to families of all generations and to find commonality with others in the area through this.

Remember the Seine traditions of the past in order to create new, inclusive stories in the area going forward. Open up conversations around Dorset mackerel, sustainable food sources and coastal ecology relevant to the local community via a unique, outdoor performance.

Use the creative energy of dance and singing  to showcase new connections to the outdoors and nature by creating a different perspective to explore it.


In August 2023, 4 professional artists came together with volunteers from Grace & Growl to devise and create a unique, original outdoors performance based on the landscape of the Fleet and the Old and New Fleet churches.

Grace & Growl are a contemporary dance troop of older dancers, who explore movement in the landscape and inspire other older people to dance. They were also joined by a young contemporary dancer.

5 full days of intensive rehearsals cumulated in a delightful performance to an audience of 35 members of the public. Many of those who attended were very local and able to walk to site.

Alongside this two 3D art making activity sessions  were held at Wyke Regis and Portland Library – making mackerel pictures on sticks which were used as props in the performance. 5 people from these library art-making sessions went on to attend the show.

50 people attended the art sessions. They were all from local communities and a variety of ages including children.


In total 112 community participants took part in the events.

204 volunteer hours were committed to the project

21 young people engaged with the project

Feedback was  collected following the group performance. This was overwhelmingly positive and will be used to help shape future performances, along with the many lessons learnt recorded by the artists and volunteers throughout the creative process.

1 site specific performance had to be cancelled due to a lack of help. The performance time was too late for some of the younger children from the library sessions to attend, so in future this would be brought forward to make it more accessible to a younger audience.

Extended benefits

Further funding through Arts Council England was secured to develop a show specifically for indoor touring at village halls through Artsreach in October 2023.

This funding also enabled the group to commission documentation materials of the creative process and celebrate local communities. The momentum of the August activity has given Grace and Growl new energy to continue performing this theme, they performed a Seine dance at the Lyric Theatre on 3 September 2023 and were delighted to be part of the October tour and input into the design process.

What next

While the Research & Design project grew and was a huge success, it felt complete in this version, and made possible through the shared learning which came out of this process.

The success of the book (Seining Along Chesil), community memory talks, and expanded engagement has led to a further commission relating to the Dorset Seine material for Sarah of the Seiners.

In March 2024 a spoken word, film and music performance as a double bill in conjunction with Jason Singh’s ‘Drifters’ live film soundtrack  enjoyed a rural tour of the South west.

Sarah is currently reflecting on where the story goes next. To find out more go to Sarah’s website.

Caught in the Net performers

Suggestions to others thinking of doing a similar project:

  • Collaboration is key! Partners, community volunteers and performers and professionals working closely together made the delivery of this project a success, enabling us to go forward with future plans.
  • Juggling tight funding for an ambitious project can be tricky at times, so keep applying for new funds. We received additional funding in the final phase which was a blessing!
Caught in the Net performer (c) Justin P Brown

“I learned so much about this traditional way of life that is now almost extinct and tell friends and family about what I have learned at every opportunity. Dancing in the landscape is pure magic! I found this to be a very exciting and satisfying project to be part of – having a chance for older dancers to perform is a rare opportunity. Thank you so much!”


Caught in the Net performers (c) Justin P Brown

“The freedom we all felt working on site outdoors, in the elements, connected us to the bigger story of the beach and was a felt experience that has lasting resonance.”

Sarah Acton, writer & project lead