Location revealed for new artwork, Anna Gillespie's SHIP

Location revealed for new artwork, Anna Gillespie's SHIP

Half Moon Bay, Heysham, confirmed as the coastal location for new maritime-inspired artwork: Anna Gillespie’s Ship


From the earliest Roman and Viking settlers, to travellers boarding Irish Sea ferries in the present day, Heysham, Lancashire has long been a strategic point of arrival, departure and human settlement. Half Moon Bay, in sight of Heysham Port, has been confirmed as the location for a new sculpture, Ship by renowned artist, Anna Gillespie. Providing new focus on Morecambe Bay’s landscape and maritime heritage, the artwork reflects the importance of seaborne trade in bringing news, innovation and shaping the character of the area.


Symbolically positioned on the boundary between land and sea, benefitting from dramatic backdrops of the tides, horizon and stunning coastal sunsets, the latest in the celebrated run of Headlands To Headspace artworks and cultural event commissions, led by the Morecambe Bay Partnership, is to be cast in durable bronze and steel. Travelling from a Welsh foundry to arrive on the Barrow Lane site in March 2019, residents and visitors will encounter the outline of a ship’s hull mounted with two opposing figures at each end, one facing ‘the new’ of Heysham Nuclear Power Station and the other facing ‘the old’ of the ancient monument of St Patrick’s Chapel. The use of the site is with grateful thanks to Lancaster City Council.


Gillespie’s deeply evocative public realm sculptures show acute sensitivity to the environment and the character of communities in which they find their home, demonstrated by her most recent, celebrated installation, Maid of the Bridge on Bath’s riverside. Purposely crafted to be of no definite historic reference, yet evoking the recognisable outline of Viking longboats of the type landed on the same shoreline by former settlers, Ship’s inconspicuous sandstone block centrepiece will provide a functional place of rest ‘amidships’. As ferries sail out towards the Isle of Man from Heysham’s ferry terminal, they and Ship will remain clearly visible to each other in clear weather, making the artwork both a figurative and literal symbol of arrival and departure.


The port town’s history as a place of shipping and seaborne transport has been traced back by historians back to the days of the Roman settlement at nearby Lancaster and the arrival of Viking settlers in the 10th century, with the legend of St Patrick’s fifth century rescue from the sea off Heysham marked by the name of the medieval ruins and early-Christian burial sites of the Grade 1-listed St Patrick’s Chapel. The current shipping and passenger ferry port at Heysham opened in 1904.


Anna Gillespie says: “Morecambe Bay and Heysham are in a perpetual tug-of-war between the splendour of the sea and its sense of danger, the  beauty of the landscape and the fierceness of the climate that has shaped it, modernity and tradition and the ebb and flow of its population as industries have come and gone. ‘Ship’ marks those contradictions and opposing forces as essential to the area’s identity, heritage and environment, pointing to the past as well as the future and offering a welcome to new arrivals and a farewell to anyone starting a new journey from here.”


Headlands to Headspace is a long-term project to complement, conserve capture and distil experiences of the vast, open views, big skies and long horizons, rich heritage and nature of Morecambe Bay. The installation of a ‘field of mirrors’ artwork, titled Settlement at both Heysham Head and Birkrigg Common, near Ulverston by artist, Rob Mulholland, attracted an estimated 26,000 visitors during September 2018, marking out the programme as one of the region’s most successful to date. A second permanent sculptural work by the internationally-acclaimed environmental artist, Chris Drury, Horizon Line Chamber, under construction at Sunderland Point, is nearing completion and will be opened to the public this Spring.


Susannah Bleakley, chief executive of Morecambe Bay Partnership, says: “The Irish Sea was the M6 of Viking times, an important, busy transport route.  We’re delighted to bring ‘Ship’ to Heysham, as it celebrates the significance of seaborne trade and our maritime past and present.  Anna was commissioned after a competitive process because of the quality and reputation of her work and her passion and engagement with the sense of place that make Morecambe Bay and Heysham special.


‘’Ship’ brings us a step closer to completing the ambitious plans we launched last summer for new art and events with a profound legacy. Anna’s work will withstand time and the elements as a durable document of our shared vision of siting art at the heart of our communities and drawing creatively on Morecambe Bay’s incomparable landscape, ecology and ancient history. It’s very much in the spirit of the setting chosen for ‘Ship’ to wait for people to encounter it in their own time, over successive generations and by people arriving and passing-through from different places.”


Making a call out to artists for ideas during 2017, the commissions - being produced in partnership with Morecambe-based arts and festivals practice, Deco Publique - called for creatives to consider all facets of The Bay’s distinct characteristics, including the region’s local heritage, natural beauty, tidal patterns, migratory bird populations and behaviours and native flora and fauna. In awarding artists the opportunity to create new work in the landscape, the suitability of each project in the environment and the potential legacy for Morecambe Bay’s communities sat at the heart of the selection process.


Each of the new commissions provide both residents and visitors around Morecambe Bay the opportunity to engage with the ideas connected with each through events and workshops, including artist talks and workshops. For information about all of the events connected with the programme visit: https://www.morecambebay.org.uk/news/landscape-art-commissions