Artist Julia Barton has a good idea. She is convinced that art can make a difference to the health of our coastal environments. So she set up the Littoral Art Project in 2013 and is now crowdfunding for an innovative tool that could help change the way we think about the litter problem on our beaches. Read her story here (and please consider chipping in to help with the project. She needs £3,000 by 4th May…)
It first started after walking on a beach in Wester Ross in 2012. Artist Julia Barton, quite literally experienced ‘a fear of drowning’ in litter. “As I walked along the strandline I became sickened by the number of plastic objects: trays, buoys, bottles, ropes, toys, cups, cigarette lighters,” she explained. “Looking closer, I realised that the seaweed was heavily laced with thousands of small pieces of cord, rope, ring pulls, cotton buds and cigarette filters.” Ever since then she has had a passion and determination to address the pressing social and environmental problem of marine litter.
And she has recently come up with a great idea: based on natural science educational ID charts, she is planning to develop a Guide to Beach Litter. Instead of a traditional Guide to identify animal and plant species, it will help beachcombers to develop a greater understanding of the different types of litter – and raise awareness of their relative threats. Some types of plastics, for example, will persist in the environment for over one thousand years. To develop the idea she needs funds, and between now and 4th May she is appealing for support via Kickstarter. (CLICK HERE TO DONATE). She is hoping to work with organisations in Inverclyde and Peterhead areas over the coming year. She is also hoping to analyse the impact of her project: Shetland Amenity Trust and a team of researchers will carry out an evaluation of perceptions and attitudes to beach litter before and after community engagement with the project.
Julia will be building on the momentum she created on the beach litter issue and previous projects. Over the past few years, learning techniques from many MCS Beachwatch surveys, she catalogued the litter that she found on beaches around Ullapool and, with initial funding from Creative Scotland for further research, experimented making artworks and creative events to engage local community members in the all-to-often unseen issue of marine and beach pollution.
Over the last year she has taken installations into schools, galleries and the museums as an innovative way of communicating the scientific knowledge gained through tutorials with marine biologist Dr Phillip Cowie at Millport Marine Station, Cumbrae. The Future Fossil Collection highlights that some plastics that we use in our every day life, and can be discarded in a few unthinking seconds, can then persist in the marine environment for millenia. Events such as the Litter Lines highlight the types and volume of litter items found on beaches close to communities.
The project has been popular – with over 100 people getting involved in visiting Julia’s temporary studio’s, examining fragments of beach litter samples under the microscope, taking part in beach litter fossil hunts and CSI performances, carrying out beach surveys and cleans and towing lines of litter from a remote beach. Over 8,000 people viewed the Future Fossil Collection shown at Ullapool Museum last year. Ullapool High School recently nominated Julia for the Observer Ethical Awards in the arts and culture category.
Julia sees her work as part of a broader movement to better look after Scotland’s marine and coastal environment. She has responded to invitations from community members in Ross-shire to join the Sea Change campaign to ban scallop dredging in Wester Ross, and, like many, she is convinced of the importance of reinstating the 3 mile limit and the value of a fully protected Marine Protected Area in Wester Ross.
A kickstarter appeal has been launched to produce the ‘Guide to Beach Litter’, aiming to raise £3000 by the 4th May.
Opportunities to visit the Littoral Art Project:
3rd – 4th May – Dumfries & Galloway
Like all the parties Julia will be taking to the road at the end of the week in the Littoral Arts Project battle-bus to campaign and promote the message for cleaner seas along the Dumfries and Galloway coastline.
13th – 19th May Shetland Isles
Julia will be visiting the Shetland Isles to scope the ‘Shetland Littoral Arts Project’ a collaboration with the Shetland Amenity Trust. Work will begin in the autumn and take place over the coming year culminating in the first Littoral Art Project exhibition in October 2016.
28th May -Edinburgh
Julia will be sharing her experiences and ideas at The Counting House, Edinburgh at 7pm on the 28th May as part of The Ragged University’s programme of talks. The talk is open to the public and free. 28th May 2015: News from the littoral Zone By Julia Barton