Shetland Notes 1: Docked

IMG_1280Firmly docked in Shetland I am now happily tied up with the Littoral Art Project for the next 2 months.   Many  Many thanks to North Link Ferries for their support and a smooth crossing on MV Hrossey.






Greeted by a wintery day – I am glad to be back and  to begin making an animation film with JJ Jamieson and to lead educational workshops in partnership with Shetland Amenity Trust to schools and organisations across the islands. We will be investigating the longevity of plastic and ways to creatively help to reduce the waste that’s picked up off beaches every year. This week is the annual Da Voar Redd Up the UK’s biggest spring clean up, the beach clean event that I took part in last year with Scalloway  School

Burwick beach WS before DSCF9507 IMG_1293

On route to spend my first few nights on the West side of the mainland I stop to check out a beautiful beach Sand Sound, perfectly named.  On arriving I see the Redd Up bags mounded up with random objects on top car bumper with nets thrown over and meet nearby resident Mike Barnett collecting litter along the beach. Like thousand’s of other Redd Up volunteers this week he has been well at work picking up and bagging every type of beach litter.   You can see the great work that community members have achieved if you go to the Dunna Chuck Bruck   As Mike bows down picking up pieces of cord and rope in the  wind, he voices what many  volunteers over the past 4 years have said to me about litter picking ‘It becomes so addictive , especially when you know if you leave a piece by next year it will be broken down into 4 pieces then the next 8 pieces …..and on’


This is a common addiction I sharealong with most beach cleaners i.e. the compulsion to keep going, picking up piece after piece even when you’re tired and its freezing cold and snowing like today! The compulsion is that the more you pick up the cleaner you leave it, which is of course true BUT sadly we know only too well it’s only a temporary fix.  The gratifying ‘high’ only lasts until the next spring tides

My aim in creating this project and travelling to communities on the frontline of the issue is to inspire us to find ways to reduce the waste in the system and to be more sustainable which inturn allows us to negate the need for this addiction.

Keep tabs on the Littoral story  by clicking  the follow button on this page and confirm with Word Press when prompted. Please pass the link on to as many people as possible and if in Shetland get in touch if you find any plastic rocks ‘Plastiglomerates’ like the ones below  as I am collecting them to use in my work and am happy to pick them up.

IMG_4456  Plastic Rock  Burn beach melted rope plastic rock reveal copy

In the meantime well done to everyone who has/is taking part in the Redd Up here in Shetland and all spring MCS Beach Clean events  around the UK !

CO2 Count

Having recently been  introduced to looking at the natural landscape  in terms of carbon storage and points of exchange through taking part in the Flux Chamber investigation  at the Environmental Arts Festival Scotland EAFS. I am increasingly conscious that the litter that I and thousands of people this weekend  (18th-21st Sept) are surveying and collecting for the Marine Conservation Society’s (MCS) annual Big Beach Watch across the UK  represents vast volumes of wasted/discarded carbon, that may of only been used once.

plastic bag scottish P1090105 cover image bag on sand

The MCS annual survey enables pollution sources to be identified and is a vital tool in being able to take action to pressurise DEFRA and governments to bring in positive environmental legislation e.g. the charges for one time use plastic carrier bags. Last October our MCS survey on Ullapool East Shore Beach recorded a marked drop in the number of carrier bags. Having just helped out on the Beach Watch Event at Robyn Hoods Bay (a North Yorkshire beach regularly cleaned), the need for the ban to be introduced in England is very obvious as shredded and degrading  bags  cling to the seaweed along the strand-line, not surprising as 7.6bn were handed out to English shoppers in 2014.  The partial ban will take effect next month (October) and will hopefully will have a similar effect to Wales where there has been dramatic drop in carrier bag litter, in Scotland there as been an 80% drop in their use  since 2014.

DSCF9503 80 bags +
My hope is that MCS 2015 analysis of the Beach Watch Survey will show a marked decrease in the  thousands of heavy bags of litter/carbon collected and hauled up the beaches this weekend. Its estimated 80% of litter will be plastic, the massive bags of litter like all ‘unsorted/mixed’ waste in bins around the UK will be transported to waste transfer stations and then on to landfill sites, such as the one I visited at Caithness last year . The non-biodegradable plastic (engineered from oil) buried in these sites ironically   may last  longer than the million year process took to form the oil from marine organisms.

landfill mound

The weight of such carbon use and waste is  thankfully being felt and highlighted as the Climate Change Conference COP21 approaches, fantastically creative ideas about a new ways of approaching use of resources and reducing environmental damage are being aired BBC R4’s Future Proofing programme explained positive ideas on the ‘Sharing Economy’ you can ‘share’ via the Twitter #future.

clyde tide line 1

Low down on the tide line of the Clyde
I along with artists across Scotland  ArtCOP Scotland and the World are creating artworks and events to capture in some way the urgency and hope that is needed to draw the commitments and resolve from politicians and most of all from ourselves and our communities. The Capefarewell arts organisation has just launched their Art COP21 events calendar and is encouraging us all to take part with events addressing climate change. My contribution will begin with a short film compiled from images low down on the tide line of the Clyde . The film will be shown on line here and projected at beach locations I visit  during the autumn.

For details of locations of the projection locations and dates please click on the blog FOLLOW button above and please share any Beach Watch observations made this weekend by leaving a comment below.

Many thanks to Laura Shirra and Noel Hawkins for taking on organising the Beach Watch event in Ullapool, I will share their findings in due course and compare with the previous two years results.
MCSS & MCS Beach Watch events continue today and tomorrow check out and join one near you

Carrier Bag charges in Scotland have reduced the number of  one use bags in Scotland/


Celebrating – World Environment Day

To celebrate World Environment Day #WED2015 today I crossed the Clyde for a meeting with marine biologist Dr Phillip Cowie at the Millport Field Study Centre FSC on Cumbrae to begin to map out the ‘Guide to Beach Litter’.

Fairly beach  ferry toCumbrae
We began by making a long list of 40 commonly seen litter items, trying to cover items made of different materials , coming from a range of different sources, i.e. originating from the land , the sea and whether they are from commercial or beach users. I will circulate this list around groups such as the Marine Conservation Society  Shetland Dunna Chuck Bruck group and other organisations /groups cleaning beaches around the Scottish coast to see if the list is representational . If anyone reading this list feels I should consider including an item I have not listed that they see in significant numbers please get in touch – use the comment box below or e mail

Long list
PLASTIC 1. fibres 2. bottles 3. Gunwads/cartridges 4. Ropes 5.Food wrappers 6.Mussel pegs 7. String /cord 8. Caps/lids 9.barrels 10. Wipes 11.cigarette lighters 12. Drinking straws 13. Work gloves nets/pieces line 16. Melted plastic rocks 17.Strapping bands 18.Plastic pieces 19.Bags 20. Pack Yokes 21. Syringes 22. Pellets/nurdles 23.cotton bud sticks 24.tampon applicators 25.sanitary ware strips
POLYSTYRENE /STYRENE 26..Polystyrene pieces 27.Foam
METAL 28.Aerosol cans 29.Drinks cans 30.BBQ disposable 31. Scrap metal 32.Batteries 33.Foil food containers
RUBBER 34.Balloons 35.Tyres WOOD 36.Pallets/crate GLASS 37.Bottles CERAMIC 38.pottery   OTHER 39. Tarmac 40. Concrete

Millport visit 2  Millport Notes

Our conversation on litter items ranged widely interestingly discussing the least hazardous materials first – glass and ceramics – which once they have been rounded with the wave action they pose a relatively small hazard to marine organisms the wider environment and ourselves. From here we launched into the plastic abyss and we noted down the vast array of hazards they pose to all organisms including our selves touching on the research studies now taking place of the effects of plastics if/when eaten by us in seafood.

Strapping black Burwick  DSCF9521 Plastic bag scottish CU Burn beach melted rope
The plastic items will undoubtedly make up the biggest section on the guide, as more and more items like work gloves we call ‘rubber gloves’ are now commonly made out plastic. A reflection of the plastic nature of our world . Clear images of the litter items, like the one below will be used in the Guide with simple descriptions which will include usual dimensions and the material/s

Plastic Rock
This #WED2015 has been a wonderfully positive day thanks to donations given in response to my Crowd Funding appeal last month.

The next step is to raise the remaining money needed. So far £675 has been received and this will cover the photography work and first draft of the text , the remaining pledged money (another £530 ) will cover the consultation process, editing, design and layout work. I am still looking to raise £1,800 to print the Guide, please get in touch with any suggestions.
New and pledged donations can be made through PayPal using the project email address press ‘pay for goods & services’. If in doubt go to the Sponsorship page.  Don’t forget to leave a message if you would like to receive a reward of a Guide or beach litter key ring. Many thanks.      I will keep you all updated on the progress of this piece of artwork.



Sharing ideas – Ragged University Talk

On Thursday evening I embraced  the  ethos of the Ragged University’s talks: ‘to share ideas you are passionate about and to learn something new’ and I enjoyed illustrating my ‘News from the Littoral Zone’ at the Counting House in Edinburgh. The evening also included a mind stretching talk by  Susan Brown from Manchester University on Sustainable Education and allowed the audience and myself to join in with the current thinking on educational approaches to ecologically aware education

The audience was wonderfully  attentive and I was happy to illustrate my research process of exploring the littoral Zones on the NW coast of Scotland  through images taken over the past 2 years  that I have  shared in this blog.  These included my initial shocking strand-line walks, learning survey methods, related hazards and the longevity of respective materials found, plus my trials to creatively share my findings with local community members. Take a look back through the posts.

I began by passing around  evidence bags  of litter items collected over the past two years from 18 beaches and exhibited during my residency at An Talla Solais, Ullapool’s Arts Centre during my residency in 2013 and then shown as part of my installation at Ullapool Museum in 2014.

evidence bags 1

I then shared my thoughts on how I am now honing down my research  findings to be able to focus on specific findings that are the most poignant to me and that inspire me to make strong vital imagery.  Item wise I am now looking in more depth at 3 of the less easily seen litter items found.

Gun Wads: plastic wadding to keep the ammunition in place   either in a gun-barrel or in a paper or metal shell.


180 plastic wads were collected last autumn on beaches  around Reiff on the Coigach peninsula by committed local beach cleaners concerned  by the fact that these  ‘wads’ have been found to significantly contribute to the death of porpoises, dolphins and turtles.Which is understandable when you view the gun wads floating in the sea as they are so similar to squid. Ecowad alternatives are available.

gun cartridges our contribrition to the ocean conveyor belt

Last week on Shetland I witnessed plastic gun wads on every beach I visited, as there is no known shooting activity on the islands, the Shetland Amenity Trust ‘Dunna Chuck Bruck’ team that I was working with thought it probable that they originated from the from the same place that the lobster tags washed up traced back to Canada’s east coast.   If we follow the conveyor belt of the ocean currents  round it is therefore likely that the  gun wads dropped on Scotland’s NW coast will be ending up on along the eastern Seaboard of America at some point.

Micro-fibres: degrading particles of plastic litter  e.g. rope, bags sacks, cord


Even on the cleanest looking beaches, where no obvious  litter items are seen,  I have  found micro-fibres laced within sand grains or caught up in/on the seaweed. On mass the fibres are easily visible but when not visible they can be seen easily amongst collected sand grains or seaweed with a hand lens or USB magnifier.   Marine Biologist Dr Phillip Cowie at Millport Field Study Centre explained filter feeding organisms  such as Prawns, flat fish and even sand hoppers are being recorded with such fibres in their guts.

Plastic rocks: melted plastic waste, formed by burning plastic litter on the beaches


Plastic rocks are perhaps one of the hardest litter items to ‘see’  as the process of burning so many different coloured plastic materials together, often results in  range of grey muted tones which blend in easily with the beach pebbles . I have recorded most of these ‘rocks’ in the mid zones of the beach as they are one of the densest of the plastic items and are less prone to being wind blown.

As I explained in my last post  the melted plastic rock  has now been named  ‘plastiglomerate’ by a Canadian research team and their research findings have led them to argue that the proliferation of the plastic rocks around the world can be seen as a marker horizon of human pollution.

Plastic Rock

I explained that I felt that this broad project knowledge was vital to gain before I could begin to envisage the series of  visual and performance artworks that I am now planning. I am presently working with Shetland Amenity Trust and Highland Arts organisations to raise funding to make the Littoral Art Exhibition possible in the coming year.  I intend to make installations and related stop frame animations focusing/using plastigomerate’s and the micro-fibres that I find practically on every beach I investigate.

Many thanks to Alex Dunedin who organises the Ragged University Talks, and to Susan Brown who through her fascinating talk on Sustainable Education has enabled to me see how my practice fits well in the Sustainable Education models currently being discussed and developed.



Kickstarter Appeal

Littoral – Kickstarter Appeal 2015

I am planning to use the information I have collected over the last 18 months on beach litter, to make a  series of contemporary artworks for a Littoral Art Project multi-media exhibition

I am asking for your support to produce a key part of this exhibition, a laminated colour
Guide to Beach Litter                             

The guide will help facilitate workshops with community groups that I am scheduled to work with as the exhibition is created and tours Scotland over the next 2 years. The locations are as follows; Shetland, Inverclyde, Ullapool, Peterhead and Edinburgh.

Rewards for your donation include copies of the Guide to Beach Litter and key rings made from items of up-cycled beach litter marked with the location they were recovered from.  Please click on the link below for more details and pass on to friends, colleagues and post on appropriate websites/blogs.   Your help is much appreciated.   Thank you



Invitation 2nd version

As my
Littoral Art Project  and I have now completed a years work  investigating beach litter I am busy editing through the hundreds of images  taken while carrying out the many events along the Ross-shire  coast. My aim is to put together a thought provoking visual presentation of the ‘story so far’ , the  30 minute show  will include highlights such as :

The background to how the Future Fossil Collection was created

Young peoples discovery that a plastic bottle might be around longer than them

The curious appearance of oranges on local beaches

Tales from Ullapool High School’s Beach CSI Team

Her stay as Artist in Residence on Isle Martin & developed her rowing career

Her collection of not fantastic plastic

The achievement of two skiff teams on World Environment Day

Her continued close relationship with Scotland’s’ Waste Transfer Stations

Ullapool Museum  & I hope that supporters of the project will be able to join us on either Monday 27th at 7.30pm or Wednesday the 29th at 11.30am to enjoy the visual presentation of the Littoral Arts/Science Project which led to the creation of the Museum’s recent exhibition Future Fossil Collection. The events are free and refreshments will be served.

My intention is to continue to create artworks & events  on our beaches with the aim of encouraging people to take greater care of our coastal and  marine environments.

With this in mind the Ullapool SYHA and I are planning the second annual beach clean of the Ullapool beach below An Pollan Park  on Saturday the 25th October. Please join uson the beach at 1.30 pm