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First There is a Mountain

In 2018 we were delighted to be asked to be one of the 25 galleries hosting First There is a Mountain around the country. We felt it was the perfect opportunity to work off-site on the Isles of Scilly, and chose Porthcressa Beach on St Mary’s, the largest of the islands.

Fast forward to 2019 and on Saturday 13 April, we travelled across on the Scillonian III, ahead of the event on the Sunday, planning to return on the Monday. Saturday was bright and breezy, a fresh spring day on land. However, the sea was rough and the waves were crashing over the pier as we queued to board the ship. It was a rough crossing, with lots of pitching and rolling, but thankfully no sickness from our group.

We arrived on St Mary’s, and headed to our accommodation. It was a bit breezy and cloudy, but “it will be fine” we said.  But the weather worsened; the rain came, then the wind. We heard that our return crossing on Monday had been cancelled. The island was bracing itself for a rough weekend.

Sunday came and was as bad as forecast – gales and bitingly cold. But, it wasn’t raining, so we headed for the beach with a scaled-back operation. We didn’t take all the pails; and no pop-up tents or handouts that might blow away. A few determined people were out and came to see what we were doing, on the beach in that weather! Some even stopped to have a go and find out more. Somehow, in spite of the weather we enjoyed it and made our mountains, and watched them taken away by the incoming tide.

The wind and rain continued into Monday. There were no arrivals from the mainland or crossings between the islands. We were confined to our accommodation. But Tuesday came and brought blue skies and sunshine. Should we have postponed it until today we considered? But Porthcressa was covered in seaweed with almost no sand showing, so it would have been impossible.

First There is a Mountain is a new participatory artwork by Katie Paterson, choreographed over British Summer Time 2019