If you've been in and around Margate in the last week to 10 days you will have likely stumbled upon something really epic coming to life across 17 walls in the town.
I am of course talking about the RISE UP RESIDENCY project which has been brought to life with RISE UP. CLEAN UP. Margate and the incredible soul that is Louis Masai. The artists travelled from all over the world to create this ocean awareness project in Margate and it was exciting to watch it all come to life in the last week of September. Even from far away, I got a real sense of the energy and impact this project was creating. While watching it all unfold through snippets on social media while I was in Iceland.
RISE UP RESIDENCY is a week-long mural project and educational programme taking place in September 2022 in Margate, Kent. The initiative is spearheaded by RISE UP. CLEAN UP. and Margate-based, internationally acclaimed artist Louis Masai.
The residency welcomes seventeen local and international artists to stay in Margate and create public art as a means of raising awareness of ocean conservation and the issues caused by plastic in and near our oceans. From documenting ocean biodiversity to plastic hazards and ocean species, the murals will remain in the town and intend to act as an educational backdrop.
Their aim is to inspire, unite and empower the community of Margate and its visitors to partake in reducing plastics and respecting the ocean. The residency intends to support and directly engage with the community through a series of talks and workshops from local businesses. And they directly employ locals to work on the programme.
I love the objectives of the project…..
- Plant based diets for on site team and participating artists
- Use of carbon absorbing paint
- Plastic free production where possible
- Post production carbon evaluation in an aim to off-set our carbon footprint
- Bridging the gap between eco sustainability and the arts
- Greatly reduce rubbish left on the streets and beaches
- Reducing plastic usage in the community and local businesses
- Create a sustainable model for eco-education and the arts that can be rolled out in other communities
- Paid work and opportunities for Margate residents
I don't think anything could have prepared me. Today, I went on a profound emotional journey. As I encountered each piece of artwork, I captured it from above by drone.
There is a map online which shows where all of the artworks are and so I plotted a route. Setting off at first light to try and capture six of the walls with the three drone batteries that I have.
My first stop was the iconic Drapers Mill. A beautiful black clad white winged windmill that sits up high on the landscape in this area of Margate was home to the first wall I got to meet. As the light pulled up above the horizon, it had that dreamy rich orange glow that only light in October can bring. And this light stayed with me for all of the walls that I visited in the morning.
I headed home after shooting six walls and set my batteries up to charge for the second trip. Reinforcements arrived as my Dad had built a mobile charging station using a rechargeable battery and an inverter in the hope I could charge as I went. It worked brilliantly. I was able to plug-in two of the batteries in and use the third one while I was flying and stayed out on the road to visit the remaining walls in the project.
The team had creatively challenged me to try and connect the artwork with the sea and build the connection of the urban and natural landscapes. It was interesting because some of the walls were orientated facing the sea. So it was quite tricky to get the sea in the background with some of them. Yet others were in incredible locations that didn't have a lot of maneuvering space to compose the shot. It was so fun to shoot. Some of the walls took a lot longer to shoot than I had anticipated because of the intricacies of the location and trying to connect it with the seascape.
It was a really incredible afternoon. The weather was beautiful and it was special to connect with people who were in the area of walls - who had made a special effort to visit some of them on the Trail across Margate. The last walleye shot was actually number one. I met a couple of folk who had actually walked all of the route past the walls and were absolutely buzzing about the experience of the artwork and the messages that they had waving through the fabric of their being.
There were a few emotional moments through the day. Finding the first mural on my journey at Drapers Mill, such eclectic detail of life under the sea by Lily Mixe and the first light breaking the horizon behind the windmill!
When I saw Louis Masai's artwork it really hit home about the impact of plastic pollution. What we think of as a large marine mammal trapped inside a bottle, is the reality of so many creatures in the sea. Humans carefully dispose of plastic waste, but it ends up in the sea, entangling and trapping them.
The girls building sand castles so innocently, just as I did growing up here. But the sea surrounding them, with Thanet facing the possibility of returning to an island by 2050 due to rising sea levels. Such amazing work by Dreph.
The other side of the Kent tech building there was a mind blowing wintry landscape by Onur. It is a landscape that I love so much. As you look you suddenly realise they'd cleverly made mountains out of plastic bags. I love the behind the scenes video on their insta. This is the reality. In some of the most remote places of Greenland, the Arctic and Antarctica, micro plastics are found in the snow. This stuff is insidious and the build up of this plastic in our environment is a worrying unknown. No one yet knows the impact of significance of this and that's in a future yet to be realised.
Towards the end of my shooting I encountered the moving artwork by Smug for British Divers Marine Life Rescue. A breathtakingly detailed piece of art shows a seal that is entangled in ghost fishing equipment. The scale of it and looking into the big eyes of the sea just made me well up.
This project, with its potency, meets the need to rewild and bridge the disconnect that exists between us and nature, as we are an integral part of it. This one in particular hit home for me. I've met a seal once in this position and this motivated me to undertake the marine mammal medical training. And I've just got back from Iceland where I was volunteering with Whale Wise, on the 'Scars from Above' project that is documenting the impact of entanglement from ghost fishing equipment on humpback whales.
I have spent a deeply immersive time with people passionate about ocean conservation and protection. Being in the same space as incredible marine mammals has had a profound effect on me.
Supporting this project that shares so many values around ocean protection has rooted my why and how deep my drive is to do more with my photography and my time. To be part of the incredible movement around the world. To fight for our climate and to have a positive impact for a blue planet. I donated my time to this project as part of my sustainability pledge. If you know a charity or not for profit who you think would be interested in support, by way of the photography grant I’d love for you to share this info with them.
I hope you get to head out and see the artworks soon and you can find out more:
Map of the walls: https://riseupresidency.co.uk/map
About the Artists: https://riseupresidency.co.uk/murals
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