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Artist’s call for action

‘We clapped for carers, let's unite again and bang the drum for the environment’
Jarvis Smith - My Green Pod
Artist's call for action

An environmental artist is calling on people to join forces to combat the plague of waste left in beauty spots.

Diane Watson’s plea follows the piles of litter left behind on beaches and in beauty spots after lockdown eased.

Plastic litter

In an article published on the Festival of Thrift’s website, Diane outlines how her daily exercise in lockdown, walking the same two mile stretch of beach with her dogs, was ‘noticeably cleaner, the birds were singing louder and even the air felt fresher’.

It led her to wonder, was nature in the absence of humans beginning to heal?

However, after the easing of lockdown in late May – when the sunny weather saw visitors return – Diane was dismayed to note that ‘within days the litter and mess had returned. Bags full of picnic and food wrappers, chip papers, bottles of beer and half-empty plastic bottles once again became the norm.’

‘This increase in litter was reported in the news across the country at beaches and beauty spots – it’s not just a local problem. The disrespect is shocking and it’s clear we need behavioural and system change at every level.

‘The sight of all this litter is something I find both frustrating and incomprehensible. What is it that makes people leave their mess? Mostly the debris is single-use plastics, and why after lockdown are we seeing such a rise in the amount of irresponsible littering?

‘Has the recent pandemic created a culture of selfishness where a relaxation of the rules means anything goes and a return to old bad habits?’

Environmental artist

‘Our own responsibility’

Diane believes that ‘education and information’ is the way forward. Her creative practice focuses on plastic debris found along beaches and coastlines, and she produces work that raises awareness of plastic pollution of the environment.

She has worked with local communities to achieve plastic-free status for Hartlepool, an initiative led nationally by Surfers Against Sewage, and she has delivered talks and workshops to raise awareness of the damage that single-use plastics are causing the environment.

‘Too often, there is a general lack of awareness of the problem and a sense that it’s somebody else’s problem. Shifting understanding to a consensus view that management of waste is our own responsibility would be a huge leap forward.

‘In a world of increasing misinformation, confusion and distraction, a simple message that unites the community is the most positive step I feel I can offer as a visual artist. We have come together to ‘clap for carers’ now we need to unite and bang the drum to respect the environment.’

Environmental artist

The Garden of the Deep

Diane recently secured Arts Council funding to embark on a project to make a garden out of 3,500 plastic bottles – the most commonly found plastic on any beach.

The ‘Garden of the Deep’ project will then be exhibited as part of the Festival of Thrift’s revised celebration of sustainable living event, Thriftfest Upcycled, on 12 and 13 September.

‘As we lead up to the Thriftfest Upcycled weekend I am going to continue to make the flowers and collect the ones that others have made and do some guerrilla planting.

‘I am planning on taking the flowers on a tour of the Tees Valley and photographing them in different and unexpected locations. I am also thinking of getting on my bike with a basket or trailer and cycling round with them – or maybe I have been locked up for too long! Look out for some beautiful plastic blooms flowering near you.’

Environmental artist

Diane’s full blog and a video and instructions about how to get involved creating flowers out of plastic waste are available here

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