Big wave 2 female surfers

©   James Tovey  2020

By tov617, Jun 16 2018 10:00AM

New and reclaimed commercial timber, plywood and repurposed wooden offcuts, roundwood branches, collected driftwood, collected plastic debris from the A47, collected ocean plastic from a Devon beach, plastic objects repurposed after end of use, acrylic paint, screws, woodstain. Made May - June 2018.

Much as coins and pottery have been used as general indicators of dating in the archaeological record; future archaeologists will be able to date layers of their excavations from the plastic content. The brands, types of toys, single use plastic bottles, drinks bottletops, perhaps particularly windblown plastic bags will have a usage period in society and a date of first manufacture in terms of their industrialised output. Some objects will have a use by or best before date, or expiry date stamped on them. Plastic maybe the key indicator in classifying subsections of human impact during the Anthropocene.

Organic objects and textiles encased anaerobically in sediments have already been shown to survive many millennia so plastic items may last indefinite periods of time, perhaps geologists of the future may be finding flattened, entombed plastic in the fossil record during the period leading up until a human extinction event horizon.

The scuptures were shown in Antonia and Chris Pounsett's garden during the Castor and Ailsworth Garden Safari Weekend and then re-located to the front of the Peterborough Cathedral main entrance for the duration of the Vivacity Heritage Festival 2018, beside the Castor Ales beer tent.

James Tovey,, , @toveyarts

#plastigeddon #plastocalypse #plasticene #plasticpollution #plasticsoup #microplastics

By tov617, May 11 2018 11:37AM

#plastic #native #temple - Installation for Vivacity Arts. For a generation born to consumerism in a plastic flooded biosphere, daily lives complicit, naturalised and virtually oblivious to the effects of single use and discard. Can we shop our way out of an ubiquitous environmental synthetic and semi-synthetic organic compound insertion? Having found a couple of expanded polystyrene skulls in a Peterborough shop sold as Halloween items, I became interested in the idea of the Vanitas still life genre but with a human impact starting point. When asked to do this installation commission it seemed an obvious choice to insert some ocean plastic into one of the skulls heads to form an Iroquois (or mohican, as commonly referred to in British English) tribal hairstyle. I think it will work better as a painting though like the immediacy of the photograph, a detail from the piece as a whole.

One of the paintings in the background for me is a cross between a Bolivian day of the skulls celebration set up with plastic debris and polystyrene skulls rather than human remains and decorative flowers and hats (see google link below), crossed with Cezanne or Picasso skull still lives. The Plastic litter was collected from a beach in Devon with some items also coming from the verges of the A47 Castor bypass. #plastigeddon #plastocalypse #plasticene #plasticpollution #plasticsoup #microplastics…:

Vivacity Unit, Queensgate, Peterborough On until 20th May 2018




Plastic is now ubiquitous.

We’re living through the Plasticene.

You can buy a 2.4m plastic cactus for your hallway; you won’t have to water a real cactus using tap water, that itself now contains plastic micro-particles.

‘The plastic arts’ is a term that had existed long before plastic itself. I have wanted to try and look at the plastic objects I had collected over the last few years as naively as possible, as though life-drawn for the first time by an art student intent on learning through prolonged observation. Not interested in the Neoplastism of the De Stijl movement, instead my initial thoughts were of a metamorphosis and of bringing ancient mythology and plastic ¬- a 20th century invention - together in an uncomfortable way. However I found myself reluctant to go too far down the path of the collision of two plastic objects to transmogrify into a third construct - yet there is a definite modernist basis for some of the elements.

The mermaid painting backdrop idea came from a small toy figure found as sea plastic litter. It is actually the top half part of a small Barbie figurine, but I initially thought it to be Disney’s The Little Mermaid. I researched mermaid art and came across the mermaid of Zennor and was attempting to build a composition around that and some lines from Ovid but the plastic overwhelmed it.

Wood is an obvious counterpoint and natural contrast with which I have felt more at ease. The plastic components are essentially ready-mades although altered by collision with natural processes in the environment and some minor assemblage. Wood is also an ancient, relevant building material. In this installation, the wood forms a sanctuary, a natural structure and the plastic is an imposition on it and in it.

There is no doubt the terrible convenient addiction that societies have developed for plastic eases the struggle against decay in the short term. What now looks to be a permanent error is that plastic is with us for the foreseeable and has been injected into the human food chain. I can imagine a child born being described as a plastic native to perhaps a planet slowly choking at Plastigeddon.

By tov617, Oct 4 2017 12:10PM

The Debris Navigator art installation at Westraven Community Garden, a space established for use by both the Westwood and Ravensthorpe district residents.

The art workshops have been organised with the help of Peterborough City Council, Peterborough Environment and City Trust, and Westraven Big local. Primarily the project has been run by Peterborough Child Services particularly with the proactive help of Samantha Smith, Councillor for Westraven and portfolio holder in the cabinet for child services.

From a Posivitistic - Ecological Art concept put together by artists Jim Tovey, John Elson and Lauren Ke, a build has taken place over the course of around 2 weeks leading up to an event day on the 9th Sept 2017. Children and Adults from Westwood and Ravensthorpe who have wanted to take part have built the installation in collaboration with the artists and also with the help of Sam and her husband Danny who put in the extra hours with the artists to get the job finished on time.

Poet Steve Walker performed on the day with John Elson comparing on stage and the organisers would like to thank all the acts of Westraven's Got Talent who took part and everyone who put on an art workshop and set up a stall. And everyone who turned up, especially our new MP, Fiona Onasanya, who took the time to come and see the kids fantastic achievements!

Gill Vessey led an #omsweetyoga yoga session in the new Solar Sanctuary - Henge.

Chris Pounsett's calculations have proved accurate for the lining up of the North Star post and the sun disc casts a shadow pattern on the henge/Solar Sanctuary's central tree on the Autumn and Spring Equinox; the tree can be seen in the middle of the top shadow triangle at noon (UT) on these days. Thanks also to Chris for writing a brilliant Creation Myth Story for recital on the moonstage. Chris Pounsett, Duncan Vessey and Martin Stalley were responsible for laying out the astronomical alignments.

Folkband Captain Backwash headlined the day event on the new Moon Stage with Duncan Vessey's Castor Ales providing his excellent beer and locally produced ciders served by Smylie Wiseman. Kevin Hand of PECT put on a great BBQ.

Thanks go William Robertson and his team of volunteers at the Westraven Community Garden for making the installation possible and welcoming everyone who took part. I'd also like to thank Jen Orrell of PECT for her help and support in organising the workshops in the Hampton Court Community Cafe and her help with the project leading up to the start date. The young scots pine tree planted at the cetre of the 'Solar Sanctuary' henge sculpture was kindly donated by the Green Backyard and has the potential to become one of Peterborough's iconic trees.

For all wondering how to begin, take a stick and and join it to another stick to sketch a line in the sky...

By tov617, Dec 28 2016 10:17PM

Winter Solstice / Midwinter / Christmas 2016 to early 2017

Sea Plastic Torii Henge was a sculptural installation originally conceived and made for the Peterborough Environment and City Trust Green Festival 2016. The wood - branch framework has been developed and enlarged into a Torii–Henge monument at the Green Backyard during 17th and 18th December 2016, in time for the Winter Solstice on the 21st December 2016. Made from locally sourced round wood branches and effectively fixed together using modern fastening techniques, it is planned that the structure will available during opening hours be for visitors to the Green Backyard to enjoy and volunteers to decorate.

The alignment of the henge and features of its construction is measured and made to coincide with the rising and setting of the winter sun at and around the Solstice and thus help illustrate the intertwined connection of the inhabitants of Peterborough to the movements of the solar system and wider universe. The henge after opening has been adorned with freshly cut greenery to reflect the seasonal time of year of the midwinter and Christmas festivities. It is hoped the structure will provide a focus for promotion for the Green Backyard and it provided a social event for community engagement around the solstice time.


Torii doors from Shinto shrines are symbolic doorways passing from the mundane world to the spiritual world, literally translated torii equates to ‘bird perch’. Here torii doors have been joined into circular structures evocative of henge monuments from Prehistory such as Stone Henge or Wood Henge.

Two such structures were made in the lead up to and for the Green Festival in Peterborough, August 2016. This build developed the ‘Sea Plastic Torii Henge’ as built in the Peterborough Cathedral precincts for the PECT Green Festival 2016.

Build dimensions:

The available space lent to a structure about 30ft diameter on mostly clear, roughly level ground most of the Torii-henge is some 7ft tall, the Sun Gate, an enlarged opening with extended rails positioned at 11am and 1pm using the sun on the 18th December as guide measures some 10ft high

The build was led by James Tovey, with astronomers Chris Pounsett and Duncan Vessey aligning the posts and henge to the solar system, Duncan Vessey of Castor Ales aided with wood sourcing from local tree surgeons.

Text for Sea Plastic Torii Henge built for the PECT Green Festival 2016 in the Peterborough Cathedral precinct:

The gate to the North West is aligned to sunset on the summer solstice, June 21st. Every day from the summer solstice the sun rises and sets a bit further South until it reaches the winter solstice; at which point it turns around and starts heading North again. Thus the cycle of the seasons continues and has done for the last 4.5 billion years, despite the small doings of man. Here Sea Plastic has been hung from the henge structure. Feel like a dolphin, seal or turtle would as it has to navigate the discarded debris of our collective plastic consumption.

Sun Henge Build Team 17th and 18th Dec 2016:

Rich Hill (Green Backyard)

James Tovey

Duncan Vessey

Chris Pounsett

Martin Stalley

Ben Pounsett

Logistics and support

Ian Sheldon

The Henge was officially opened by:

Lauren Kendrick (Green Backyard) and Jen Orrell (PECT) at 12noon on the 21st December 2016 with the David Lowndes of the Peterborough Telegraph there to record the event.

Gill Vessey of OMYOGA led a sun salutation to herald the start of the new solar year.

Thank you to everyone involved in making this happen and helping get it agreed and built so efficientlly and to The Green Backyard board of Trustees for deciding that the project could go ahead.

Sun Henge at the Green Backyard 2016/2017
Sun Henge at the Green Backyard 2016/2017
looking South through the sun gate
looking South through the sun gate
Sun burning through the mist at 12noon above the heel post
Sun burning through the mist at 12noon above the heel post
Sea Plastic Torii Henge at the PECT Green Festival 2016
Sea Plastic Torii Henge at the PECT Green Festival 2016

By tov617, Dec 28 2016 12:06AM

The Peterborough Environment and City Trust Green Festival 2016 was opened on the 13th August.

Following months of planning and a successful funding bid, installation of the Future Floodlands Stage and its associated sculpture and attractions was begun at lunchtime on the 12th August. All went to schedule and the dress rehearsals were held on the Friday evening while the backdrop was set up right in front of Peterborough Cathedral.

With the final tweaks on Saturday morning, Eastern Angles Theatre Company started the first performances of two schedules of the six specially commissioned plays exploring rising waterlevels and climate change.

Spilling Convention by Clare Currie

On Such A Full Sea by Hilary Spears

Losing It by Vikki Touzel

In The Wake Of The Flood by Elaine Ewart

Somewhere Else by William Alderson

Beside The Seaside by Liv Jones

The plays were directed by Poppy Rowley, Theatre Director and Artistic Associate of Eastern Angles Theatre Company. The project, bidding process and the selection of scripts for the plays had also greatly benefitted from the help of Keely Mills, also of Eastern Angles. The backdrop for the performances had been conceived by James Tovey, who had then brought in John Elson, artist, to work on the design and layout of the specially cut plywood panels. The backdrop was divided into six pieces, each eight foot long, to provide flexibility on the day and help with transportation and reuse at a later date. Another important part of the interactive stage was the submersion tent. Initially conceived by James Tovey as a tent for audience members to enter and have an underwater lightshow experience, this feature was handed over to artist Luke Payn to make his own and he developed the concept adding layers of meaning by making digital compositions, through which the front of the cathedral could be viewed, as though under water.

Additional artworks by James Tovey, included as part of the Floodlands stage:

Future Floodplain Xoanon – 8 foot standing sculpture

Driftwood Xoanon – 9 foot standing sculpture

The Floodmonster – 25 by 12 foot wooden snake

Sea Plastic Torii Henge – 20 foot diameter, wooden framework, adorned with sea plastic, collected from a single tide, aligned with the cosmos by the astronomical knowledge of Chris Pounsett and Duncan Vessey

Wishing Willow Torii Door – interactive wooden branch sculpture, made for a collaboration with Douglas Thompson, artist

You are the Sea, the Sun, the Moon and the Stars – 2 wooden assemblage sculptures, made by the children of the Learning Tree nursery, with the help of James Tovey

The Spanner – a large traditional boatbuilding tool, made and used by James Tovey, repurposed as an art object

The Flood Detection Stick – a reliable predictive device

Turf Boat – traditional boatbuilding frame/former

Three boats were refitted and refinished and arranged on the set – two used by the audience for interactive seating during the performances, one used as part of the set:

Birdie – 11 foot 6 inch river skiff, designed and built by James Tovey

Picnic – 14 foot garvey punt, designed and built by James Tovey

Puffin – 14 foot clinker Yachting World Day Boat, built in 1962 by LH Walker; renovated from a wreck 2012 by James Tovey

Eastern Angles Theatre Company employed eight actors to perform the plays. The cast included:

Lucy Formby

Kate Gwyn

Lucy Keirl

Charlotte McGuiness

Darren O’Sullivan

Fiona Putman

John Shields

Suzanne Tuck

The stageset took a team of people to erect and dismantle, these included:

Duncan Vessey

Chris Pounsett

Ben Pounsett

Smiley Wiseman

Ian Sheldon

Martin Stalley

Jonathan Cook

John Elson

Luke Payn

Tony Henderson

Tony Nero

Richard Wood

Andrew Sullivan

James Tovey

Onsite the audience, cast and crew greatly benefitted from the Castor Ales beer tent providing refreshments, as organised by Duncan Vessey, who also included ales by Bexar County on his racks.

Musical direction by Lucy Keirl

Stage Management by Liv Jones and Penny Griffin

A huge thanks goes out to these people below, who also helped bring about the event:

Karen Igho, Keely Mills, Samuel Beagley, Ivan Cutting, Metal Peterborough, Tony Henderson, Chris Erskine, Laura Fanthorpe, Peterborough Environment City Trust, Charlie Genever, Stuart Orme, and all at Peterborough Cathedral.

The project would not have been possible without the funding that came from the Peterborough Environment City Trust and from Seedbed Trust.

Flyer - design by John Elson Artist
Flyer - design by John Elson Artist
Future Floodlands cast - Eastern Angles Theatre Company 2016
Future Floodlands cast - Eastern Angles Theatre Company 2016
Peterborough Cathedral 13th August 2016 Future Floodlands plays and stage
Peterborough Cathedral 13th August 2016 Future Floodlands plays and stage


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