Project Details



Howie Watkins, along with a team of artists and designers supervised the construction of an artwork consisting of a mural, a freestanding (life-sized) sculpture of a Sperm whale's tail, mobiles and masks.  By the end of the show, the marquee contained a three dimensional representation of the marine environment that featured local landmarks and history.  

The visual elements of the artwork were constructed from reused junk collected from beaches, junk stores and companies around South Wales.  We liaised closely with the City & County of Swansea Council to utilize local sources of material.  This allowed us to highlight the Council's work towards encouraging greater recycling and reuse of resources.  The final artwork resulted from a combination of the contributions from the design team and the public.  This ensured that the work was genuinely participatory, fully involving the public and evolving as the day progressed.



The mural (approximately one hundred square metres) was created by erecting and then painting upon a "canvas" of waste cardboard.  It consisted of three main panels of equal size and two smaller sub-panels running along the walls of the marquee.

The construction of the mural was a two stage process: painting a background scene and creating animals and plants to fit within it.  Both stages took place simultaneously with members of the public free to paint the background and/or cardboard cutouts which were added to the background as it neared completion.  This approach allows participants of all ages and abilities to contribute freely to the finished mural whilst still allowing our team to control the finished result to a large degree.

The sketch above shows the basic layout of the mural (click on it for a detailed view).  The design, by Wyn Griffiths, sought to represent the world's oceans as if seen from a viewpoint on Swansea beach. 

On the right hand side we see the familiar sight of Mumbles head, then the open ocean and the deep sea.  On the far wall is a coral reef. The left hand wall, returning to Swansea, shows an over-exploited and polluted ocean, merging into a scene of industrial devastation and rubbish.  Thankfully, the mural (and our journey) continues through this to a greener, better future of re-use and recycling. 

The message was simple, yet effective, “Do you want the rubbish-filled or the green future for the oceans?”.  Having posed this question, in a simple and graphic way, the other activities and information delivery points within the marquee gave participants the chance to learn more.  Experts and environmental educators were on hand to discuss the issues raised.

At the end of the event, the mural and kelp forest were relocated to Swansea's Environment Centre where they formed the centrepiece of an art exhibition in celebration of World Ocean Day.  After the exhibition it was planned that the cardboard on which the mural was painted would be recycled, however, a number of teachers requested that sections of the artwork be donated to their schools.  As we always re-use rather than recycle, we divided and distributed the piece among five local schools. 




In the centre of the marquee, Howie Watkins ran animal handling sessions with  locally collected marine animals and plants in specially designed touch tanks.

The tanks were made from old baths and shower trays mounted on a stage of waste palettes and polystyrene.  They held over four hundred gallons of aerated seawater and allowed us to keep a wide range of local marine plants and animals healthy for the duration of the show.

At the end of the event the animals were returned to the sea at the point of capture.



Representatives of Marine conservation and local environmental action groups were on hand throughout the event.  This helped us effectively deliver our environmental message and promote recycling and recycled products.

A stall of illegally imported, confiscated, animal artefacts (including turtle shells and corals) was provided to allow participants to learn more about the illegal trade in the body parts of endangered animals.  Biofacts (natural animal remains e.g. teeth, antlers etc. from captive animals) were also be available for the public to handle.




The main sculptural element was the whale's tail constructed at the entrance of the marquee.  It was made from waste wood, polystyrene, chicken wire, tea bag material and plaster.

Within the marquee, cardboard cut-outs and waste material from a Christmas decorations factory were used to create a walk-through kelp forest.

In our experience, it is important to allow participants to create something for themselves that they may take away from the installation as a souvenir.  In order to allow this, we also ran a "jellyfish on a stick" workshop.  cut-outs of sea creatures were provided for participants to paint as they wished.  Once dry, these were transformed into masks, by the simple addition of a stick.



A "sound workshop" allowed participants to record words, poetry and sounds that evoked strong images of the sea.  These were added to a "Marine Sound Poem" which evolved alongside the visual artwork.  The poem was played on BBC Radio Wales live from the event.
Ocean Poem (1mb) RealMedia Ocean Poem (1mb) WinMedia




The event was funded by the City and County of Swansea Council.  They obtained sponsorship from W.J. Jenkins & Son (Waste Paper Merchants).  The Art Alert Crew received further help from Jenkins & Son in the form of cardboard.  Addis housewares donated buckets and brushes (many of which are still in use today!).  Find out more about our sponsors here.


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[ 13/02/2003 ]