Sidmouth’s first Winter Lights Festival, Sidmouth on Sea – Save Our Seas, took place in February and featured SOS light installations from artist Zac Greening and art from local children.

Several installations were curated and focused on the artists’ thoughts on the theme of Save Our Seas. Each artwork was inspired by the challenges faced by climate change and aims to encourage conversations and connections and empower actions that can be taken both individually and collectively.

Despite two weather warnings, over 1000 people attended the festival over five nights and many left messages as part of the installation created by local school children, which comprised of recycled plastic bottles forming the letters SOS. The messages were written by a range of ages and have all been transcribed and are being sent to local MPs, Councillors and organisations like South West Water.

The messages reflected the concerns of people, especially regarding littering and sewage being discharged into the sea. Some included:

  • Please think about our planet. I want to swim in the sea with fish not rubbish!
  • To the government, pick up your rubbish from the sea! Then everyone will be happier – love Isabella (age 7)
  • To our politicians, councillors and local decision-makers: STOP ALLOWING SEWAGE TO POLLUTE OUR SEAS.
  • Protect Our Oceans!  We want to swim in the sea without sewage.  We want clean oceans!  Keep the marine life safe.  Whatever you’re doing is NOT ENOUGH!
  • No more poo in our sea! SOS
  • Hope Nature Stays.  Please recycle, Please Reuse, Do not buy new!  From George.

Speaking about this interactive piece, artist Zac Greening, said: “The inspiration behind this art piece was the highlight some of the pressing issues facing our seas and oceans today and to give local people an opportunity to air their feelings and concerns about the current state of our oceans.

“As the lead artist and curator of this project, I have been very encouraged by how many members of the public have contributed to this installation as part of Sidmouth Winter Lights Festival, despite the weather, and took part in Message in a Bottle – Save our Seas.

“It is hoped that this collection of community sentiments will inspire our politicians and decision-makers to take action in preserving our most precious natural resources for future generations.”

Sidmouth’s Winter Light Festival was hosted by Sidmouth School of Art and was a free event which was designed as an exhibition of 14 installations each with their own environmental message. The artworks were created by lead artist, Zac Greening, artists Patrick Bateman and Rose Adams, as well as community pieces from Sidmouth’s Repair Café, Sidmouth Primary School, Sidmouth College, Sidmouth School of Art and Sidmouth Coastal Community Hub.

Louise Cole, from Sidmouth School of Art, added: “We were really thankful to be supported by our volunteer stewards who stood out in the wind and rain welcoming people. We were really struck by the feedback we received by those who visited, clearly the sculptures and their environmental focus and with so much community input was really valued. Creating different kinds of opportunities to engage people with art and their own creativity is exactly what we were able to achieve with the Winter Lights Festival.”

The project was supported by Sidmouth School of Art and a range of funders including Creative East Devon Fund, Sidmouth Town Council, Sidmouth Hotels, Potbury’s of Sidmouth and Voyage Travel Marketing and Sidmouth Chamber of Commerce, with in kind support from Fords South West. More details about the project can be found here

Donations to support the festival can still be made via Sidmouth School of Art’s website here

For those who missed it, a film about the event is available on Sidmouth School of Art’s Facebook and Instagram, at @sidmouthschool_art