A major new work of art by Ramsgate resident, Theresa Smith, is premiered at this year’s festival.
PERFUGIUM MISERIS is an overlooked part of Ramsgate’s history. It is the Latin motto which is carved into the beautiful lighthouse, at the end of the western harbour arm. This lighthouse was designed by Georgian master engineer, John Smeaton (1724 – 1792), though built nearly 100 years later, who is widely regarded as the “father of civil engineering”. The translates as “refuge for those in need”.
The new art installation on the Eastern harbour arm highlights this message from the town to the world beyond and stands as a memorial to those who lost their lives beneath the waves, beyond the safety of the harbour walls. Many of those lives were lost in the Great Storm of 1703 which, through tragedy, brought about significant change to Ramsgate. Widely believed to be the only true hurricane to hit British shores at full force, the storm caused the deaths of roughly 1500 sailors from the Royal Navy on the Goodwin Sands alone, that is without the countless lives lost in other vessels out at sea, as the storm raged across the country. The need for a more effective refuge in the area resulted in a new harbour design for Ramsgate, the reconstruction of the harbour commenced from 1749 and took a century to complete with the lighthouse marking the harbour mouth.
PEFUGIUM MISERIS sits at the high tide mark and sinks beneath the water as the sea rises. It is clad in photoluminsecent vinyl which adds a soft glow to the installation as the daylight fades. As the tides change the words will come and go, reaching out to us across the waves and reminding us of Ramsgate’s unique maritime history.
This beautiful artwork encourages deeper reflection on the nature of a harbour, beacon and refuge from life’s storms.