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.


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



…. the process of making work for the exhibition has steadily been taking place over the last month in a series of places across the country.

Drawing and configuring island plans for my archipelago map and filming micro-plastics  at Wasps Studios in Edinburgh

Collecting & photographing litter items on the Firth of Forth beaches. The Guide to Beach Litter will be launched at an interactive educational event during the exhibition.

Modelling and photographing my toy commando in Borders 128 changes and shots were made to produce a short stop frame sequence for the exhibition animation.

Moldmaking and casting wax replicas of beach litter and the toy commando in the well equipped mixed media workshop at the Edinburgh Sculpture Workshop

Canvas dying experiments took place this week with friends at An Talla Solais in Ullapool. Scaling up the dying process revealed  difficulties in maintaining the consistent colour I want to achieve, an Ordanance Survey sea blue. Taking this liitation on board the canvas/map will now be made in a time honoured reliable way using paint

The final making stage  of this exhibition work will begin tomorrow when I arrive back in Shetland, where I will be delighted to take up my place as Artist in Residence at Sumburgh Head Lighthouse.

Post written while I wait to board the MVHrossey  from Orkney. Thanks to North Link Ferries support towards my passage.  The show opens on 8th October at Da Gadderie Lerwick Museum and Archives and runs until 12th November.




….coastal geographical words, understanding of different polymers, appropriate materials, remaining animation shots to use in the making of my  exhibition  installation and for specifically for specialist support:



a laboratory to carry out a chemical analysis of the different polymers fused together in the plastiglomerate samples that I have collected over the last year. The analysis will form a important part of the part of the installation






promotional help, such as  contacts in news papers, journals, on line sites,  who would be intersted in telling the marine plastic issue from a new explorative visual angle using the Littoral Art Project story and exhibition




Any suggestions/comments/networking help for the exhibition would be much appreciated.         A press release with short summary of the project, exhibition information and schedule  can be found and copied from the Press Release page. Please forward this to any supportive organisations, journalists and colleagues/friends asking for editorial coverage/ help with promoting the exhibition. Neo-Terra: a burning marine issue  at Da Gadderie, Shetland Museum & Archive, Lerwick. Oct 8th-Nov 12th . Many thanks.

Footnote:  ‘inappropriate  resting place’ taken along the Forth estuary,  while completing the photogrphic illustrations for my Guide to Beach Litter.resting place