An evolving project
Having engaged with representatives of the community and other stakeholders, the project has grown to embrace more than just a sculpture. Anticipated funding from Arts Council England in 2015 did not materialise. The team was faced with two options – either to drop the idea and walk away or accept the challenging advice of professional consultants who said, “It needs to be more than just a sculpture”.
It was decided to accept the challenge.
The inspiration for the project has not changed – it is to raise awareness of the importance of oysters – in particular The European Native Oyster, known locally as the Fal Oyster, with its rich heritage and living in the Fal Estuary.
It was suggested that other possible locations should not be ruled out. The Banjo, on Discovery Quay, would work for the sculpture alone but now, the advice given was to create a comprehensive World-class Oyster-themed Experience, complete with educational activities and facilities for growing young oysters, later transferred to suitable coastal water sites to create ‘reefs’, providing habitat for other species whilst fighting pollution.
A small team worked between 2013 and 2016 to develop the project. Key stakeholders have helped create complementary educational programmes – some of which have run during the development period, some of which will run during the building of the project and some beyond its completion. Cornwall College Students from the Camborne Campus helped create a 1/8th scale model of the proposed sculpture, which was presented for public consultation at The 2013 Oyster Festival before being displayed for 18 months by The National Maritime Museum Cornwall. In April 2016 it ‘came home’ to Cornwall College to be put on display in the foyer of The Marine School, Falmouth.
On-going programmes of activity would be managed by a suitable charitable trust.
- To develop and execute a viable ‘Awareness Educational Programme’ based around skills employed in the making of the project and its ongoing operation
- To liaise with educational and other establishments, e.g. the National Maritime Museum Cornwall, The Falmouth Art Gallery, Cornwall College, University of Falmouth, the Oyster Fishing Community and World Oyster Society in the development of relevant educational initiatives across different age ranges, aimed at raising awareness of the marine environment and Ostrea Edulis, the native oyster – in particular, The Protected Designation of Origin, ‘Fal Oyster’
- Educational workshops specific to The Oyster project as a focal point:
- Showcasing to visitors the real Cornwall marine environment, including the influence of tides etc
- Showing how art and engineering can work together in collaboration for the public good
- Bringing together groups from within the county and beyond, to learn specifically about oysters – the part they play creating and maintaining a healthy marine habitat
- Helping support, promote and participate in the Falmouth Oyster Festival
- Establish an oyster hatchery project for educational and research purposes
Local schools, Cornwall College, Falmouth Marine School, The University of Falmouth, The National Maritime Museum Cornwall, Falmouth Festivals, Falmouth Art Gallery, Holifield Farm Project, Marine Engineers, Visit Cornwall, The Duchy of Cornwall Oyster Farm, The World Oyster Society and many retail businesses are set to benefit from the focus this project will bring to the area.
A growing awareness of the environmental contribution to be made by oysters, has opened the way for Falmouth, UK to become an internationally recognised centre for oyster research. In New York Harbour, USA, a ground-breaking project is underway to introduce one billion oysters over a 20 year period. The project is exposing young people and urban communities to the importance of this small creature’s environmental contribution as well as its reputation as a high-nutrient food source. Discussion is underway for a version of that project to be replicated in the UK by Falmouth Marine School.
A Cornish Icon
The Ostrea Edulis, European Native Flat Oyster, is an iconic part of Cornish culture with its epicentre in the historic harbour town of Falmouth.
For many years, fishing, including related maritime activities and traditional skills, has experienced a decline. Local communities have seen their livelihood disappear and their proud heritage diluted by the rise of a leisure-driven economy.
The native oyster, a crucial keystone species, a marine mollusc that few ever see living in the wild, will be brought to prominence by the arrival of this iconic facility, presenting opportunities for raising the profile of the oyster’s community heritage.
The Fal Oyster is a standard bearer for sustainable fishing. As a source of nutrient-rich food, the oyster also has the ability to filter and clean tidal waters adversely affected by human activity, particularly in large natural harbours and estuaries around the world. This heralds an exciting new opportunity for Falmouth to deliver international impact.
During initial project research in 2012, oyster shells shown on this page were given to Andrew Nicholls by a Fal Oysterman as inspiration for design of the sculpture.