Wonders of our oceans and Plymouth’s marine heritage will light up city centre this half-term

Captivating light installations that show off the scale and wonder of the oceans while celebrating Plymouth’s intrinsic bond with our waters will appear in the city centre this half term.

Three artworks that each tell a story about the ocean and our connection to it will go on display from 15-17 February. They include:

• Stunning illustrations that appear spectacular under UV light after dark and show off the diversity of our marine life.

• Sculptures that echo the appearance of tiny plankton, the building blocks of life under the seas. The work by artist Iona Scott invites you to learn more about the importance of phytoplankton through visual experiences.

• Future Meadows – an immersive artwork that celebrates seagrass using sculpture, light, and augmented reality (AR). Seagrass is crucial in the fight against the climate crisis and people will be able to explore and interact with the meadows of this underwater grass that exists on the bed of Plymouth Sound using AR on mobile devices.

Each artwork will be positioned in Plymouth’s recently refurbished Civic Square – surrounded by buildings woven into the city’s history. The installations have been designed to evoke that heritage while echoing our historic connection to the seas, and how we approach our public spaces and marine heritage in the future.

The pop-up installation light, sound and augmented reality will bring these conversations to life in the middle of Plymouth’s High Street Heritage Action Zone (HAZ) conservation area and attract more visitors and customers to the city centre.

Steve Hughes, chief executive of the Plymouth City Centre Company, said:“ We are delighted to be able to welcome this event to the newly refurbished Civic Square.

“Culture plays an important part in creating a vibrant city centre and attracting visitors and residents who can combine their visit with some shopping, a bite to eat or visit to other city attractions, so it’s good for our businesses and the city centre economy as well.”

The art works have been commissioned by Plymouth Culture, the city’s support agency for the creative and cultural sector, in partnership with Plymouth Sound National Marine Park with funding from Historic England’s HAZ programme.

Set up in 2020 with funding from Historic England and Plymouth City Council, the HSHAZ is delivering £2.58 million into the regeneration of Plymouth city centre. It is supporting both capital works – such as the recent improvements to Civic Square – and a cultural programme, including the series of city centre light installations.

The team from Plymouth Sound National Marine Park will also be on hand to chat with their own display and will be joined by the RNLI on Friday, 16 February, ahead of the charity’s 200th anniversary celebrations.

And on Thursday and Friday from 4-6pm, children can get involved with free craft activities and make their own ‘flying fish’ artwork to take home.

Hannah Harris, CEO of Plymouth Culture, said: “These wonderfully creative series of pop-up light installations celebrate Plymouth’s ingrained connection with the oceans while sparking important conversations about the future of our waters and our responsibility to protect them.

“So much crucial work with ocean sustainability takes place right here in Plymouth and I’m delighted that we’ve found creative ways to communicate those important messages.

“It’s also the latest in a highly impactful series of light installations in our Civic Square that have been creating interesting debates about how we approach our future in a space surrounded by heritage that’s accessed by so many different and diverse communities.”

Elaine Hayes, Interim CEO, Plymouth Sound National Marine Park, said: “This is a fantastic opportunity for the people of Plymouth to find out more about our natural heritage through these wonderful art installations.

“It is also a great opportunity to meet some of Plymouth Sound National Marine Park’s Coastal Rangers and Volunteers to find out more about our plans for the next five years.”