31 MSP’s pledge to take action on plastic

31 MSP’s pledge to take action on plastic

31 MSPs pledged to take action on plastic pollution by signing at #CleanBeachesScotland exhibition & event at Holyrood in December 2017. I created the exhibition based on my recent  NEO Terra  installation shown in both Shetland & Ullapool, to illustrate to MSP’s the scale of coastal & marine plastic pollution in Scotland.

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Of the MSPs who signed, 50% ticked all of the pledges demonstrating a personal commitment to backing measures to reduce the amount of plastic that contaminates our beaches and sea. 63% are keen to meet with Littoral Art Project to take a closer look at plastic pollution along their constituency shorelines. We will meet local beach cleaning groups (Marine Conservation Society MCS , Surfers Against Sewage SAS and  Harbourmasters to  learn more about specific beach litter issues in their constituency  and to enrol them in becoming Beach Champions.

Photographs by Alan McCredie

Joan McAlpine MSP joined me at Dunbar in her South Scotland constituency, to examine the particular litter issues concerning the Dunbar Harbour Trust as a multi-use Harbour and to take a sand sample from the regularly cleaned south beach.

#CleanBeachesScotland event. Scottish Parliament 13.12.18
#CleanBeachesScotland event. Scottish Parliament 13.12.18

The exhibition and event  received wonderful cross-party support from MSPs, including Graeme Day convener of the  Environment, Climate & Land Reform Committee with interesting conversations with many members of the committee. Environment spokesperson for the SL Claudia Beamish who attended the event, later commented in a Parliamentary Debate on the 20th December that  it was truly inspiring to see what art can do to support communities and others in their work on the issue”  Roseanna Cunningham responded in the debate that ‘……The work of the organisations that the member flagged up is incredibly important, and it needs to be backed up by Government and global action…….’

Thanks to Mark Ruskell, Environmental spokesperson for the Scottish Green Party, for his time to hear about Littoral Art Project’s findings and to talk through the value of LAP’s citizen science approach. He outlined his commitment to rigorous debate about plastic pollution and the connection to climate change legislation. I look forward to following up his links to Fife environment and arts education organisations.

I will also be contacting the other MSP’s interested in bringing the LAP to their constituencies ( Joan McAlpine in South Scotland, Rachael Hamilton in the Borders, Kate Forbes in Skye, Liam McArthur  and Jamie Halcro Johnston in Orkney ) and to explore the potential of this creative approach to engage their communities in tackling #MarinePlasticPollution  as in Shetland and Ullapool where people  joined me in collecting and examining beach samples.

The results of this interactive arts-cum science approach formed the  photographic evidence shared with MSPs and is available to share with councils and community groups.


Following on from the success of the Holyrood exhibition, the Shetland Amenity Trust and I will be requesting a meeting with Scotland’s Environment Minister Roseanna Cunningham. I intend to pass on the LAP research from 120 beaches and the findings of partner organisations, community groups and individuals that took part in the #CleanBeachesScotland event co-hosted by  MCS , with major contributers  KIMO, SAT, FIDRA, SAMS ).    I will be highlighting the extent of plastic pollution originating from the fishing and aquaculture industries, which often makes up to 90% of litter on Northern Scottish beaches and are often under mentioned . 

fishing rope on beach

We welcome the recent Scottish Government’s announcement to legislate against environmentally damaging items:

The positive response of so many MSPs during the #CleanBeachesScotland event and the Scottish Governments environmental announcements give hope to all those working to #BeatPollution in Scotland. These are great achievements that need to be actioned and broadened to include the fishing & aquaculture industry’s plastic pollution as soon as possible, so that Scotland can truly be seen to be leading the way internationally towards achieving a cleaner more sustainable environment.

Scotland’s beaches are beautiful – but increasingly contaminated with Plastic Pollution

Please follow up with your MSP e.g. suggest helping to bring the project to their constituency. If you/your organisation/group has evidence of plastic pollution on a stretch of the Scottish coastline please leave a comment below or email me so I can include it in the #CleanBeachScotland document that I will present to the Environment Minister.

Please follow the progress of the Littoral Art Project by pressing the blue FOLLOW button on the left and follow on twitter @LittoralArt

Help to support this research-art-action project to continue, develop and to reach more communities by making a donation. Press the orange DONATE button on the left. Thankyou

Julia has received Creative Scotland awards supported by The National Lottery for the original Littoral Art Project R&D and NEO Terra exhibition that led to this exhibition. The #CleanBeachesScotland exhibition was self-funded by the artist.




Zooming in on plastic strapping threaded together to form #LitterCUBE                                 J Barton

My ongoing musings on our entanglement with plastic pollution and its interconnectedness  with the sustainability of our environment both here in Scotland and globally was greatly aided by visitng the  most recent An Talla Solais exhibition Murmur an exhibition of 5 women artists  reflecting on Climate Change .

Both the exhibition and a gallery talk by  John McIntyre (scientist) illustrated  the linkage between our actions and changes in world ecology.  John used this diagram called a  ‘Muir Web‘ drawn by Landscape ecologist  Chris Harrison as a visualization of habitat relationships and ecological associations of the Manhattan island, circa 1609.

muir web jpg

John Muir:  “When we try to pick out anything by itself we find that it is bound fast by a thousand invisible cords that cannot be broken, to everything in the universe.”

Our inter-connectedness and responsibility to the environment, our species and each other was further wonderfully delivered that evening in a film of the American  philosopher/artist Donna Haraway entitled ‘Story Telling for Earthly Survival’  by film-maker Fabrizio Terranova.  Donna animatedly tells  anecdotes of her dogs prowess at complex agility courses, adding another layer to her own visual analogy of  our ecological and social mesh being as a ‘Cats Cradle’

images     images (2)  images (3)

As I begin to select elements of the NEO Terra exhibition to take to Holyrood  in December to share with MSP’s and Ministers I am convinced of the importance of taking the #LitterCUBES particularly this one made from strapping  to help with imagining the depth and complexity of the issue that we are all enmeshed in.

COPcube2 - J BartonMy intention is to engage as many people as possible in the seeing of  the ecological web/mesh we hold in our hands.  To do this I am working up an idea to tour the       #LitterCUBES ( in much bigger forms) to harbours and festivals around the coast.

Please leave any suggestions  below of possible locations,  where you can see this working and ways to help raise funding to make this happen .  Thank you


HOPE 2017

I am very happy to be back based in Ullapool and to begin collecting beach samples from along the  Wester Ross coastline..rhue-beach-jan-17 Rhue Beach – todays collection location

Over the next month I will be collecting  samples ffrom 60 beaches for examination in the NEO Terra  exhibition taking place at An Talla Solais‘s Caledonian Gallery May 13th -June 18th.   I intend involving as many people as possible in the collection and will be encouraging discussions as to how to build  HOPE for the future. Shared ideas will be added to those collected and sketched out from Shetland residents on HOPE isle  below…..  hope-isle-3_li Please add your own ideas  into the comments box below of ‘how we can stop plastic leaking into the environment and  improve environmental sustainability’ I will add them  to the isle of HOPE.  My own HOPE is based  on the support and feedback I have received to the  Littoral Art Projects 2016 ‘s achievements recorded below :

         Littoral Art Project LEGEND 2016

                               Featured Image -- 3554  nt-beach-samples-cu nt-beach-sample-results                 Exhibition: NEO Terra, Shetland Museum      Oct-Nov

                     img_3940 commando-lands terra-nova-end-statement                        Animation: Terra NOVA,  Shetland Museum     Oct-Nov

               scalloway-evidence-bags  magnifying-voxter  whalsay-micro-plastics                                 Education Workshops: across Shetland            May-June

                             COPcube2  cairn  img_0912                                            Presentation: Edinburgh Humanities Network – Deep Time    April

                           29th MArch IM collecting PR's plastic rock reveal copy  PR's section 2                   Expedition: to Isle Martin        March

                 Studio 4 Studio 4 TS Studio 4 postit                               Residency: at An Talla Solais developing animation storyboard

             CS logo 1 copy                                    Awarded  Creative Scotland -Open Project Funding towards LAP                                         exhibition in  Shetland and Ullapool 2016-17

NEO Terra: findings

NEO Terra: findings

On the 12th of November the final beach samples, taken from 60 beaches around Shetland, were carefully examined revealing a vast mix of  small plastic particles which were counted, recorded and projected across the exhibitions interactive space.

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51 of 60 beach samples taken from strandlines around Shetland contained plastic particles – Mangaster and Mavis Grind samples each contained over 100 plastic particles many  contained  Nurdles (plastic pellets being tracked across the world)

Many people returned to the exhibition for a final look and to share their own experiences of encountering beach litter, with stories of particular incidents of pollution from ship wrecks. In the early 1990’s two fish factory ships were wrecked close to Lerwick and residents from Gulberwick (a village a little way south) recounted  how they are still picking up debris from the wrecks particularly compressed foam (a form of plastic) from along their local  beach.  The plastic would have insulated the ships freezers. Perhaps next time the show is mounted there will be an island named WRECK, but for now the islands that made up New Lands /NEO Terra floor installation have been collapsed.

The majority of the plastiglomerates that I collected  from the beaches (25 boxes) and used to make the islands have now been placed in the Lerwick’s landfill facility.  Unfortunately this is the safest way to dispose of plastiglomerates which my have absorbed toxins from the sea. I bagged the few hundred  small plastiglomerates which had made up CORD isle to travel with me to new locations. The first of which was Southampton University   where I mixed together  plastglomerates from Shetland & Wester Ross to create  a geometric ‘Polymer Mix’ as part of my presentation for the ‘Being Human Festival’ focusing on the question ‘Is Plastic fantastic?’


The delegates all agreed that plastic is a fantastic material as long as it stays within the economy – being reused and recycled. The vast leakage of plastic into the environment is damaging so many environments as witnessed here on beaches in Scotland, the UK and in oceans across the world. The leakages need to  be stopped whether it’s from factories, tourists on beaches , commercial fishing industries, agriculture or from toilets in our homes! One thing is sure we are all responsible.

NEO Terra will next be mounted in Ullapool at An Talla Solais’s  Caledonian Gallery next May – I will  begin my next collecting expedition to Wester Ross in the New Year. Please get in touch using the comment box below if you have any suggestions of where  the show might  travel too/be shown or have any comment/questions.

NEO Terra: first sighting

NEO Terra: first sighting

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The first sighting of the exhibition NEO Terra, an archipelago of  islands  was seen on Saturday at Da Gadderie, Lerwick,  by an inquisitive, thoughtful and appreciative audience. These first shots fleetingly record a walk through the exhibition, around the central floor installation a 10 metre map with plastiglomerate archipelago within the Polymer Sea.  Exiting this space the Terra Nova animation made with Shetland filmmaker JJ Jamieson illuminates the origin and making of the islands/the plastiglomerates.

Turning left visitors enter an  interactive space where plastiglomerates with their place of discovery can be examined. 60 beach samples from around the islands are arranged side by side , a selection of which  with commonly found microplastics  can be magnified and projected.  Notes can be left of observations.  Opposite is a photo documentation of education workshops carried out in schools this spring.

Five cubes constructed out of plastic items found on beaches and a simply drawn timeline notating how long different items/materials might last on beaches completes the exhibition.

The exhibition runs until the 12th of November at Shetland Museum & Archives and is open very day 10-4pm. I will be present in the gallery on many days during the exhibition naming coastal features and analysing the samples collected. I look forward to meeting visitors particularly on Friday afternoons between 2-4pm

Many thanks: to JJ Jamieson for his creative collaboration and technical dexterity in making the animation. Thanks to John Hunter Shetland Museum & Archives curator for going along with plans for re-configuring the gallery, physical help in constructing the walls and keeping us smiling while installing and to Davy Cooper from the Shetland Amenity Trust for lending us equipment and calm we can fix it support. 

Installation was only possible with the help of artist/photographer Ailsa, art students Alice and Kirsty, Jane from Sumburgh Head, and Sita Goudie and Alice from the Trust.

Thanks to Jean Urquhart for making the connection between my work on the NW coast and the work of  Sita  Goudie running the Shetland Amenity Trusts Environmental Improvement work who in turn enabled the Littoral Art Project in Shetland to happen.

Plus all my friends and supporters on the mainland and world wide thank you !

cs-logo-1-copyand travel support from North Link Ferries