We had a great week on St Agnes, Isles of Scilly, 28 miles west of Land’s End in Cornwall. It’s a tiny island with nothing to do except look at the sea and rocks, visit the many secluded beaches, swim, sail, eat and drink and weather watch. For an instant switch off from the stress of work you can’t beat it!
But this trip has highlighted how inspiring the place and it’s people are when it comes to re-use, and because of Sharing Communities and my Bristol Re-use investigations, this trip I found myself thinking how much my attitude to waste has been influenced by coming here for the past 28 years.
Being accessible only by water (unless you’re Prince Charles who arrived by boat but left by helicopter from the meadows while we were there) means that islanders have to think carefully about imports and exports, and that includes waste, which has to be buried, burned or composted within the islands. Recycling has to be sent to the mainland.
It’s a good job there’s a long culture of re-use and re-making. Some items excitingly arriving from cargo washed up on those wonderful secluded beaches. The most famous example is Beady Pool on Wingletang (yes, those are real names of real places) after a Dutch cargo ship was wrecked nearby in the 17th century.
I don’t think any ceramic beads have been found for the past few years, but it may be no co-incidence that St Agnes has produced several jewelry makers. Most well known is probably Fay Page with her beautiful silver shells, who has emigrated to St Martins, but more interesting in terms of re-use are Rebecca Smith who has created some glorious pieces from beach-combed glass and Emma Eberlein, who highlights the presence of plastic in our seas by creating jewellery using small treasures washed up around St Agnes. Emma also paints beautiful images of island wildlife, such as agapanthas, on driftwood.
Aside from our scrappy old camping kitchen, pallets and other waste wood have been used to create furniture for homes and businesses throughout the island. Waste items have also been used to build boats and convert old buildings. And, of course, the cats needed a playstation!
Back home at Spike Island I’m looking for inspiration from our floating community. Examples are dotted all over the harbour and we are seeking stories and photographs to share with the public. In partnership with the Underfall Boatyard, sound designer Elizabeth Purnell and BLINK Giant Media we propose to turn the yard’s information kiosk about their ‘adaptive re-use’ renovation into an occassional ‘story-telling hut’ in September and October 2015. Banners will show examples of ingenious ways in which boaters have re-used- they often have to make-do and mend while afloat- and voices of re-users will emanate from the kiosk.
We’re also inviting you to make tiny boats from corks and waste wood from the yard for a magnificent mini-flotilla in the Autumn.
We hope to inspire land lubbers to re-make some broken stuff instead of buying new- pretend everything arrives and leaves your home by boat!