Close Examination ULLAPOOL FERRY TERMINAL Fri 23 March 7.30 pm
An investigative performance by S3 Ullapool High School pupils in collaboration with artist Julia Barton as part of the Littoral Art Project, telling the research journey that we have undertaken along Ullapool Harbour shoreline over the last few years.
Opens at 7.30pm for viewing the display of the Littoral Art Project findings recently exhibited at the Scottish Parliament. Plus updates on actions being taken to Beat Plastic Pollution by the Harbour’s Fishing for Litter Scheme and Ullapool Primary School’s ‘No Plastic Straw Campaign’. Performance starts 8pm – lasting approximately 30 mins.
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.
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.
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 Cunninghamresponded 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 .
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.
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.
Today artist’s working across the Arctic are coming together to share their work at the 2017 RELATE NORTH Symposium at the University of Lapland, Rovaniem – while I am sadly unable to be there a piece of my work from my NEO Terra exhibition will be on exhibit alongside those of artists working in Finland, Canada, Scotland, Alaska, Russia, Somi Republic, Norway and Sweden.
The piece I have sent is one of my #LitterCUBES, made from plastic particles collected from along the strandlines of Shetlands beaches during my residency there in 2016.
#LitterCUBE 2016 – is a compressed assemblage of mixed polymers Polyethylene terephthalate [PE-PET -PETE] Compressed assemblage 5 x 5 x 5 cm.
52 of the 60 beach sand/substrate samples I collected from Shetland contained plastic particles . Many of the strandlines were thick with plastic fibres and particles. In extreme instances the fibres & particles mound up metres deep – the link to their source ropes/nets/cord of the commercial fishing industry is plain to see.
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The consequences of such pollution are thankfully increasingly being monitored by scientists like Obbard. And marine biologists like Winnie Courtene-Jones who are researching and documenting the effects of micro-plastics on invertebrates in the Deep Sea. Plastic has been ingested by marine organisms as small as Sand-hoppers and Algae at the bottom of the food chain . The consequences of this pollution is ironically massive for the fishing industry . Below are a few of the creative community workshop images envisaging the issue of plastic fibres taken on during my project.
My visual essay of my work in Shetland is being published by the University of Lapland Press this week and will shortly be available on-line.
Shetland’s Littoral Zones: An art-science project revealing the legacies of plastic pollution on beaches in the north of Scotland.consequences of plastic leaking into Northern ecosystems.
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.
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.
Tonight I take my leave of the Shetland Isles with Black Guillemot’s diving in Garthspool harbour. Stepping onto the deck of the ferry I am able begin to unravel what I have learnt from my extraordinary Shetland expedition.Almost 8 weeks criss-crossing the Isles, examining beaches, collecting Plastiglomerate, filming animation footage and leading workshops with pupils with 14 schools. On this journey my constant yet ever changing companions have been the wonderful bird life that fills the skies and extensive coastline.
Drawings above of a Common Gull, Raven and Skua (Bronxie) by Urafirth School Pupils
As the ferry swiftly leaves the dock and makes its passage through the Bressay Sound Arctic Terns dart across the prow of the boat and Fulmars fly down skimming the seas surface dipping to pick up food.
Steaming down the east coast of the isles I focus hard on the shoreline through the mist trying to recognise some of the beaches I have collected Plastiglomerates from and lead litter investigations on with pupils from 14 schools over the last 7 weeks. The first beaches I spot are effectively the small town beaches (less thean 50m long) there are many of them tucked in between buildings with a small tidal range.
We soon pass by the Voxter beaches of stone and shingle then Hoswick beach were we examined the beaches with local Sandwick School pupils, collected micro-plastics from the beach and considered the disturbing images (below) taken by a scientist Jan Andries van Franeker who carried out an autopsy on a Fulmar found locally on Shetlands south mainland.
The dead Fulmar had over 9oo polystyrene beads plus small pieces of plastic and nurdles. Fulmars feed on the surface of the sea and understandably mistake the polystyrene and plastic pellets/pieces for fish eggs. The result of eating so many piece of plastic is starvation as the bird thinks its full. Fulmars also feed the plastic to the chicks. The extreme dangers of micro plastics to bird life was central to our Close Examination workshops and was carefully explained by my workshop colleague Jane Outram the environmental officer of the Shetland Amentity & Guide at Sumburgh Head Lighthouse (bird observatory). Jane has been a great bird knowledge and has been an invaluable project colleague who has helped me to facilitate the workshops and help me differentiate the numerous type of waders, gulls and .
We have both been delighted and impressed by the children’s knowledge of birds while delivering the educational workshops. The Urafirth Primary Schools beautiful illustrations used here are taken from the schools notice board which names the birds seen around their school and points out the dangers that face specific birds like the Shag below, from beach and marine plastic litter.
Shetlanders are rightly proud of the vast aray and number of bird and wildlife that lives and visits the islands throughout the year. I have delighted in being able to witness this at close hand as I criss-crossed the islands visiting beaches and schools. I have caught sight of otters cruising along the Grathspool harbour wall (Lerwick) at sunset and Red-throated Divers diving in the afternoon sunlight on Voes out west.
As MV Hrossey ploughs through the North Sea I try in vain to photograph a lone Gannet gliding fast across the wake of the ship which is broken up by the fresh north easterly.
As we pass by Sumbrugh Head cloaked in cloud after weeks of continual sunlight. I reflect on the fascinating natural beauty of Shetland and the dangers that wildlife and Birds are facing here and around the world given the increasing volume of plastics in the oceans and on the beaches.
Birdlife: (top) melted plastic rope, (LHS) Guillemot egg on Yell, (RHS) waders eggs increasingly exposed as nests change from muted brown to brightly coloured
With such images in mind I leave with an even greater determination to make work that envisages this environmental problem in new and dramatic ways and to stimulate discussion and the need to act /change behaviours. I look forward to returning in September to install my work at Da Gadderie Shetland Museum and Archives
Thanks to Creative Scotland for funding towards my animation and exhibition development work and thanks to Awards for All and Zero Waste Scotland for funding for the educational workshops and to North Link Ferries for help towards my travel.
As my expedition to Shetland enters its last few weeks I am travelling to as many beaches and foreshores that I can to examine the littoral zones and to collect Plastiglomerates.
This morning I picked my way carefully along the tideline of Channer wick beach a steep pebble beach on the eastern side of Shetlands mainland keeping an eye out for waders nests and watching the Fulmar chicks fledging out of burrows set in the bank of the back beach while I myself was being in turn watched by three common seals basking close in to the shore line. Facing southeast this beach is cleaner than most beaches around the Shetland/World though plastic litter is there knitted into the raised back beach landscape
My main aim is to collect up as amny of the Plastiglomerates I can find, so far I have found them on nearly every beach I have surveyed, even on the beautiful world renowned St Ninians (tabola), where they tend to be small fragments collecting usually at the south west corner of the beach.
My notes help me keep track of my finds, the type of beach, aspect amount of easily visible litter and the amount of what I collect.
The numbers of sacks are a crude summary of the amount of litter that each beach is subject to and the prevailing tidal flows and whether the tidal flows are able to wash the litter out to sea once it’s there or whether the landforms entraps the litter like at beaches such as Burrick (above left) where so far we have collected 6 sacks, or at Meal where I lifted several large slabs off the rocks, or at Mangaster (below) and Mavis Grind where the the Hightide lines are almost as deeply littered as at Burick.
Mavis Grind is a significant point in Shetlands Geo Park being a narrow isthmus between the Atlantic and the North Sea where boats were hauled traditionally from one side to other to avoid the long row around. On my journey north today I intend revisiting Mavis Grind to try and understand more clearly the significance of the landforms (Taings : tonues of land ) that entrap what the Atalantic and passers by leave. Connectivity permitting I will share my findings.
Alongside collecting the Plastiglomerates usually within the high tide zone, I have been taking small samples of sand/seaweed from the splash zones that evidently contain micro-plastics. This week I will ask Higher school pupils on Whalsey Island to examine and compare samples taken from their own shorelines with those I have taken from around the Shetland Mainland. I look forward to their observations creative interpretations and wonderfully visiting another one of Shetlands 100+ Islands.