Plastic boat sets sail on River Wear to highlight global pollution problem

The plastic boat on the Wear
The plastic boat on the Wear
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After more than a million people turned out to enjoy the Tall Ships in Sunderland, a boat of a different kind has been setting sail on the River Wear.

While this vessel may lack the sheer scale of the tall ships, it carries with it a very important message.

With sails made entirely from plastic bags, this adapted yacht has been created by staff and artists from the University of Sunderland to highlight the dangers of plastic pollutions to our rivers and seas.

James Hutchinson, contemporary artist and MA Fine Art programme leader at the university, said: “The spinnaker, jib and main sail were all made out of plastic bags, using existing old sails as a template.

“We all know now there is a massive problem with plastic bag waste and we wanted to show our support for those trying to address this by creating the boat.”

After launching the boat between Sunderland Yacht Club and the National Glass Centre, James and students from Fine Art filmed the vessel. That film has now been edited and used as part of a backdrop of an art performance at the Five Years Gallery Archway in London. It has also been screened in parts of Japan, including Tokyo.

For The Baggiest Sail Boat Project, James enlisted the help of two students, Tamara Shaw and Areti Chatzipavlou. Gavin Shaw, Tamara’s husband, and a water-sports consultant also provided support in navigating the boat on the Wear.

James’ colleague Graham Mitchinson also collaborated on the project.

The work is inspired by previous ‘bagist’ artwork and performance work such as OB1, which was a video of an orange plastic bag stuck in an apple tree exhibited at Workplace Gallery Gateshead in 2013.

The problem of plastic pollution is now being tackled on an international scale. More than 50 nations are taking action to reduce the issue, according to the UN.

Momentum to tackle the problem gathered pace after BBC TV series Blue Planet II highlighted the scale of the issue. The hit show highlights the catastrophic effects plastic has on the environment.