In Memory of Jon Beedell of the Desperate Man Theatre Company, Bristol, UK. The Peri and Proxi (tides made flesh) story. Circa Bristol 2015 – 2017.

14. 12. 2022

Like many others I am so shocked and saddened by the death of Jon Beedell. I was lucky enough to be involved in various enterprises with Jon and The Desperate Men. Deepest sympathies to all his family, friends and colleagues. As a tribute please I have assembled as much of the fabulous Proxi and Peri films and photos that I can find.

Please note this was a large creative enterprise running over a few years in Bristol approx. 2015 – 2017, with input from various individuals and organisations.

Here is information from the Desperate Men website as a screen shot.

Please also note that much of this is also on the My Future My Choice, Bristol Loves Tides website here. But other films and photographs filmed for the Towards Hydrocitizenship: Water City Bristol Project are also included.

Special credit is due to:

Richard Headon who is co-artistic drector of Desperate Men with Jon Beedell, and who was Proxi to Jon’s Peri

Hugh Thomas of My Future My Choice

Nathan Hughes / Roung Glory Films who made most of the films below.

Antony Lyons /Nova Arts who were creative inspirations at the outset.


Proxi & Peri: One Last Job. Film 1

Proxi and Peri, ‘the tides made flesh’, are compelled by the moon, to venture up the River Avon to remind the people of Bristol of the importance of tides to the heritage, history, and possible futures of their city. Redoutable blue-collar workers, they’ve successfully managed the second largest tidal reach in the world since the 1607 Tsunami, but must complete one last job before retiring to the Mediterranean. Commissioned by My Future My Choice for Bristol Loves Tides – a European Green Capital 2015 flagship project raising public awareness of hydro-citizenship (ecologies of people, water and cities). Made in association with the Towards Hydrocitizenship AHRC project and NOVA arts.

This video has to be watched on Vimeo – click on the image below to do that.


Proxi & Peri: Syzygy Oath on Bristol Docks (2015): Film 2

Proxi and Peri Proxi and Peri (Tides Made Flesh) arrive in Bristol on the syzygy (a nearly straight-line configuration of the sun, moon, and earth during a solar or lunar eclipse) to be welcomed by the Mayor. They lead the assembled throng in a tidal oath, present 10 tidal ambassadors with special objects and charge them to conduct important research. Launch event for Bristol Love’s Tides – a flagship, Bristol European Green Capital 2015 project featuring Desperate Men as P&P.

This video has to be watched on Vimeo – click on the image below to do that.

This is a shorter version, just of the oath.


Proxi & Peri: Ebb of Life. Transcript: Film 3


Proxi & Peri: No Rest For The Fluid. Film 4

Proxi and Peri, ‘the tides made flesh’ wake on a bleak shore, surprised to still be human, as they anticipated a well-earned retirement managing marginal Mediterranean tides. They cross a hostile landscape to ask the moon why she reneged on their deal, and argue the pros and cons of being human en route. Commissioned for Bristol Loves Tides, the film pays homage to buddy movies and Spaghetti Westerns to raise questions about our highly problematic relationship with non human systems.

This video has to be watched on Vimeo – click on the link below to do that.


Short Films

Proxi and Peri Ask about the Various Tidal Themes

The tides have been put into human form by the moon and are on a quest to find out how Bristol values its tides which are the highest of any city in the world. This film explains the six themes that they challenge young people to find out about.


Proxi and Peri ask about Heritage


Proxi and Peri ask about Water


Proxi and Peri ask about Bio Diversity


Proxi and Peri ask about Energy


Proxi and Peri give their Scores


Peri Sings a Song


Extracts form Tidal Turnings: The Continued (Bristol) Adventures of Peri and Proxi


Photographs of Events

Album of photographs of Proxi and Peri at the Benjamin Perry Boathouse, Bristol Docks, 2015

Click on image below to see all photos


Photos of World Water Day Event 2015

P1010278

Click on image below to see all photos

P1010281

Related academic article

By Owain Jones and Katherine Jones

On narrative, affect and threatened ecologies of tidal landscapes

A chapter in the book Methodological Challenges in Nature-Culture and Environmental History Research. 2016; editors Jocelyn Thorpe, Stephanie Rutherford, L. Anders Sandberg

Chapter abstract

This is a story about tides, about tides in Bristol, about two characters that were found in the mud of the Severn Estuary-Peri and Proxi. It is also a story about telling stories as a method for the creative accounting of eco-social histories, presents and futures, and material and non-material entanglements of such through space-time. And it is a story about loss: of ecologies, of ecocide, of getting lost, and of finding a way through stories. As so much of life is, this is an experimental mixing. Tides mix things-fresh

and salt water, land and sea. In unsettling boundaries and definitions, they invite a focus on inter-relationships, and on flux and change. Intertidal landscapes are in constant motion, change and cycles, denying fixity and stasis. As such, they unsettle both linear thinking and linear understanding that, in spite of movements to break away from them, continue to shape historical and geographical accounts in many areas of thinking. This chapter is tidal in its approach-ecological. It tells stories of stories

through the tides, an ebbing and waning, from solid to fluid and back again with all that comes in between. It embraces the constant motion of life and understanding, and attempts to bring this into a textual representation. In short, it is a story of an ecological approach to eco-social storytelling.

A BBC Radio 4 programme, and an email exchange with Professor Charalambos Kyriacou about tidal influenced circadian rhythms.

This Excellent BBC Radio 4 programme The Life Scientific – A passion for Fruit Flies interviewed Professor Charalambos Kyriacou about body clocks in animals and circadian rhythms. The latter part of the programme discusses tides and body clocks, particularly that of the speckled sea louse. Fascinating stuff about tidal life.

I decided to email Professor Kyriacou with a question and he very kindly replied. And he also kindly agreed that I could post or email exchange here. So here it is.

From: Owain Jones <owain.oj@btinternet.com>

Dear Professor Charalambos Kyriacou

I study tides – but via cultural / arts and humanities approaches.

I have a very quick follow up question after your fascinating interview with Jim Al-Khalili on BBC Radio 4 yesterday.

So,  the speckled sea louse has a moon responding  cycle in its habits which is 12.4 hours. And you said,  it does so ‘because that is when the tide comes in and out’.

But around the world there are a whole range of different tidal patterns and rhythms which don’t correspond to 12.4 rise and fall. This is also so around the coast of the UK,  where local geographies shape tidal rhythms and times. For example, there are 4 high tides  a day in the Solent as the tides wash around the Isle of White.

So I am wondering, although I am sure the sea lice will have body clocks, which would make them follow the 12.4 hour lunar rhythm in the lab, maybe, in the actuality of local conditions, their habituated response to the environment would have to override that,  and rather correspond to local tidal rhythms and durations.   

This is copied to my friend and colleague Professor Heather Green of Arizona State University , who also studies a tidal landscape in the Gulf of Mexico  https://www.heathergreen-art.com/tidal-timespace

Regards Owain   

Dear Owain, thanks for getting in touch…….sure, tides are location specific….and you are correct, I would imagine that if you take animals in some of these more esoteric tidal locations and put them in constant conditions immediately in the lab to measure their cycles they might not be 12.4 h.  In fact that is exactly what we do with Eurydice – we move them immediately from the beach to the lab and their 12.4 h cycles are perfect, because the local tides are 12.4  h.  The question though is whether an animal exposed to 4 tides, when placed immediately in constant conditions to express its endogenous cycle will reveal a 12.4 or 6.2 h dominant cycle?  Of course on the beach it will be entrained to 6.2 h, but the genetically encoded oscillator I bet would be 12.4, because the circatidal ancestors of those animals would have evolved in a more conventional tidal environment – that’s my bet anyway…..I’ll look into the literature to see whether anyone has done the experiment……… nice one………….best,  Bambos

Charalambos P. Kyriacou, FMedSci

Professor of Behavioural Genetics

Department of Genetics and Genome Biology,

University of Leicester.

I copied the emails to my friend and tidal colaborator Heather Green at Arizona State University. See something our shared work here. Tidal Timespace.

Seaside Gothic Magazine and Website

This looks great. Please think of supporting, and submitting material. I intend to!!

From the website

Seaside Gothic is a magazine from the edge of the sea where the frontier of civilisation meets the wild of the water.”

And …

  1. It is led by emotion, not reason, exploring the human experience mentally and spiritually as well as physically, and is unashamed to embrace the violence of the sea and the wind along with the beauty of the land and the sky and the ever-changing tide.
  2. It addresses duality—land and sea, love and hate, the beautiful and the grotesque—to reflect the structures that line the coast, which are both those solidly braced against the fiercest elements and those built from what surrounds in a state of shanty transience.
  3. It connects to the edge, living on the seaside either literally or figuratively, and has one foot in the water and the other on solid ground, presenting the juxtaposition of a physical border with open space and a wilderness of water that provides life yet is inconsumable.

One of the stranger tidal facts/stories I have come across; foraging hogs in New Brunswick.

In a restaurant in Bath they hadve a complete set of old encyclopaedias on a shelf. I looked up tides!

The entry includes a strange fact about hogs in New Brunswick. I have tried to find other references to this online – but can’t.

Click on pic one to read – then on pic two. The relevant bit is right at the bottom of pic one and runs onto pic two.

Tides and death: drownings, execution and burial.

Death by Flood

Tides and the intertidal areas they expose are, obviously, things to be very cautious of when living or walking by the coast, and on the foreshore at low tide.

There are, sadly, many stories of people being drowned by in-coming tides. I will just mention a few. And there are other, darker, stories of tides and death.

Throughout Britain’s history there have been catastrophic episodes of coastal flooding where high tides, exaggerated by storm surges, have overtopped sea defences and caused huge floods. In 1607 this happened along the shores of the Bristol Channel and Seven Estuary when as many as two thousand people drowned. This was recorded in a famous pamphlet written soon after the event, which have woodcut illustrations. To this day flood level marks can be seen cut into the stone of the church of the estuary’s lowlands. See here for a fuller account. https://www.aforgottenlandscape.org.uk/projects/1607-the-great-severn-estuary-flood/

In 1953 a devastating flood affected Eastern England drowning as many as 300 people on the coasts of Lincolnshire, Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex. Area of Holland on the east coast of the North Sea wee also badly affected, and many died there too.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/North_Sea_flood_of_1953

Drowned by Incoming Tides

Floods which over top sea defences aside, sadly,  many people have perished when they have ventured beyond the seawall and into the intertidal zone for either curiosity, leisure, or work. Perhaps most notoriously, in the UK, as many as twenty-one Chinese illegal immigrant labourers were drowned by an incoming tide while picking cockles off the Lancashire coast on Morecambe Bay. Now called the Morecambe Bay Cockling Disaster, this occurred on the evening of 5 February 2004, when those drowned were taken unawares by the speed of the incoming tide. Much more information is  here on Wikipedia The famous Irish folk Singer Christie Moore wrote  folk song about the disaster. The lyrics contain the line  ‘the tide is the very devil….’

A very sad example, local to me, and the Severn Estuary, is the tragic case of two young cousins who were playing whilst exploring the intertidal areas of Beachley Point near Chepstow.  One of the boys, Chepstow schoolboy Jamie-Lee Wilson Cartwright, eight, drowned when they got in trouble because of the incoming tide. His cousin Kyle, then nine, survived thanks to the quick-thinking of a bird-watcher who heard their shouts for help and the work of members of the Severn Area Rescue Association (SARA). Jamie-Lee lived in Beachley, and floral and other tributes are still placed on the shore close to where he tragically drowned.

A third and very horrible tale is of a father and son who were drowned by an incoming tide at Ulverston Bay, Cumbria, 06 01 2002. On a fishing trip, they were walking on the intertidal area of Morecambe Bay, when dense fog came down and they could not see which direction to head, as a high spring tide was coming in. The father had a mobile phone and was in touch with the police in a series of increasingly desperate calls. He ended up wading in the deepening water, carrying his son on his shoulders as they tried to find a way to shore, but they tragically failed to do so. Their bodies were found in the following day. Source here  (Guardian).

But I suppose tides will always result in such tragic accidents on occasions. Here I now focus on other intertidal death stories of stranger, and more macabre natures.

Murder by Tide

The story, a Tragedy of the Tides,  in the collection Earth’s Enigmas; a Volume of Stories, by Charles G D Roberts, published in 1896, tells how a young colonial couple were kidnapped by native American Indians in what is now Canada. They were taken on a long forced walk, and by canoe, for two day before being executed. The were so by being staked out,  standing,  in a muddy creek at low tide and drowned as the tide came in. The man was positioned lower in the intertidal zone so that the woman would witness his death before drowning herself. The couple were reported as missing from city of Halifax on the afternoon of September 18th, 1749. The story reports that the Indians were waiting by the creek to watch the tide rise, but were disturbed by other colonists and made off. Attempts were made to save the couple by freeing them – but to no avail. The creek in the story is named as the Tantramar, which is near Halifax, Nova Scotia.  The full text of the story is on line at  https://www.gutenberg.org/files/20231/20231-h/20231-h.htm#A_Tragedy_of_the_Tides

Unholy Burial by Tides

In the period of terrible witch trials in Scotland, in 1704 at Torryburn on the south west Fife coast, a woman Lilias Adie confessed to being a witch and having sex with the devil after a long period of incarcerations and interrogation. But she died, probably as suicide, in prison before she could be finally tried, sentenced and burned.  The disposal of her body was a problem to the church and authorities given her probable suicide and her supposed crime of witchcraft. So she was buried in the muddy intertidal area of Torryburn Bay, and a large flat sandstone slab lain over her resting place, in the hope this would stop the devil bringing her back from the dead. A series of folk songs by Heal & Harrow, harpist Rachel Newton and the fiddler Lauren MacColl, have now been created about the Scottish witch trials, including one about Lilias Adie.

The Duplicitous Royalist Ferryman!

Another Severn Estuary tale is of a ferryman loyal to King Charles I in the English Civil War who carried a group of Royalist soldiers across the estuary near Aust. He was then forced ‘at sword point’ to also ferry a group of pursuing rebel soldiers across the water. At low tide the estuary does look like it is possible to walk across many of the sand banks and rocky areas to and from the shore. So he landed the soldiers on an area called ‘The English Stones’, assuring them that they could from there walk the rest of the way, but this was not in fact true, as even at the lowest tides the Stones are cut off from the bank by a deep channel with fast currents called The English Lake. The soldiers were all drowned by the rising tide. The English Stones now support part of the Second Severn Road Crossing.

Traces of individual wave edges, made by the waves themselves on hard sand; on an ebbing tide. Lovely delicate, intricate patterns. Tenby, Pembrokeshire, UK: Nov 13 2021

A falling tide on the hard sand of Tenby Norrth beach allows each wave to leave a trace of its own margin, made by a little outline trace of sand. Many of these lines interweave as following waves partially cover them. I love the delicate patterns this creates. I left my feet in a few of the images to give an idea of scale. Other marks give that away too! Of course, a rising tide washes all but the highest wave margins away.