Artists help raise awareness of the importance of peatland
An artist from north Wales has been using poetry and live performances to help spread the word about peatland and how it can help tackle the climate and nature emergencies.
Manon Awst, former Ysgol Uwchradd Bodedern student and Cambridge University architecture graduate, is undertaking a long-term art and ecology project exploring the ecological value of peatlands – Wales’ most effective terrestrial carbon stores.
Manon is currently studying for a PhD at Bangor University and works as a Public Spaces Creative Coordinator at Pontio Arts and Innovation Centre in Bangor.
‘Peat Bodies’ aims to interpret the qualities of peatland to encourage different thinking about this remarkable landscape, and Manon has worked with artists Teddy Hunter, Mari Rose Pritchard and Julie Upmeyer to share their creative responses to Cors Bodeilio National Nature Reserve on Anglesey.
Members of the public were encouraged to walk along the boardwalk to experience objects, sounds, live performances, and poetry in Welsh and English.
The event was organised at the Natural Resources Wales (NRW) national nature reserve in collaboration with the Welsh Government’s National Peatland Action Programme and the BioComposites Centre at Bangor University, with support from Arts Council Wales.
In February, she unveiled plans to create a ‘carbon-storing’ sculpture, preparations for which included school workshops, an exhibition at Oriel Brondanw and a sculptural presentation at the Llŷn ac Eifionydd National Eisteddfod.
Examining the relationship between science and the arts, Manon makes sculptures and site-specific artworks woven with ecological narratives to explore the way materials ‘stick’ to locations and communities.
Peatland covers only four per cent of the Welsh landscape yet retains 30 per cent of our soil-based carbon.
However, with 90 per cent of peatland in a damaged condition, it currently releases greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming.
Combining NRW’s peatland and biodiversity expertise, and collaborating through strong external partnerships, projects such as this are contributing to Wales Peatland Action’s aim to restore functioning ecosystems to help safeguard and sequester carbon.
She said: “The aim of Peat Bodies was to offer multiple ways of engaging with the site and seeing beyond the obvious, and for many this was their first visit to Cors Bodeilio.
“The weather brought drama to the event, with bursts of sunshine and rainbows adding to the sounds and visuals. It really felt as though we were collaborating with the site itself.”
Alan Whitfield, Disability Art Cymru’s Visual Arts Officer, said: “The event was quite mystical with plenty of intrigue and room for contemplation. There was a great mix of people partaking in what felt like nature’s inquisitive procession, from children engaging with the squelch of mud to adults immersing in the magnitude of the outdoor work.”
Dr Peter Jones, NRW’s Lead Specialist Advisor on Peatlands, who supported the event with scientific input, said: “The creative interpretation was excellent. I’ve got a deep attachment to peatland and this site. I’ve spent a lot of time here thinking about wetlands, measuring water levels, recording fly orchids, and the artists’ interpretation gives a different perspective to that experience.
“I applaud any event that highlights the hidden qualities of peatland as the earth’s most concentrated soil carbon store.”
You can listen to Manon talk more about the project in Cyfoeth: The Natural Resources Wales Environment Podcast.
Sticky Sculptures: With Manon Awst and the National Peatland Action Programme is available from Spotify, Deezer, Amazon Music and via this link.
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