Sea inspiration for education and eco-tourism

“I’m motivated to live by, and inspire others to live, a sustainable life that helps to preserve the planet rather than deplete it” – Sarah Holden

The human population is fascinated by water and each year millions of people flock to the coast to enjoy a relaxing holiday on the beach. Often, though, they leave behind them a record of their time by the sea and it is estimated that such holidaymakers cause a 40 per cent surge in marine litter – 95 per cent of which is plastic. Clearly, one way of dealing with the problem is to develop eco-tourism which has been growing at 10-15 per cent per annum since the 1980s and is epitomised by Sherif El Ghamrawry’s Basata Ecolodge in Egypt. Another is beach cleaning but this only removes the waste, it does not solve the problem. 

In 2005, Sara Holden, a Visual Arts Enterprise graduate of the University of Wales Trinity Saint David, came up with a different solution – she founded Sculpture by the Sea UK Ltd. Having been passionate about both nature and art since being a child, her objective was to inspire children and communities by engaging them with nature through the medium of art, thereby helping to protect and sustain it for future generations. Living by the sea and using that as her inspiration for art, she saw the Welsh beaches as the perfect place to run workshops. While working in schools she found that running sessions in the school grounds, rather than the traditional classrooms, benefitted not only the children in terms of their well-being and creativity but also nature. So she determined to launch a multi-faceted business that addressed economic, eco and social issues in a harmonious way, using the beaches and endangered marine species to help people learn about the marine environment in a way that generates empathy and helps to protect and sustain them.

The business, which operates all year round, offers outdoor fun workshops for all age groups. The participants learn in the fresh air kinaesthetically, thereby enhancing their health and emotional well-being as well as their moral and spiritual development. The courses aim to teach the participants about sustainable materials (grown, found and recycled) and to inspire them to appreciate nature. According to Sara, their work encourages “children and young people to become active citizens and promote sustainable development and global citizenship as well as encouraging lifelong learning”.

While their workshops fit with the National Curriculum, “Sculpture by the Sea UK” is not just an educational resource. Its employees are trained artists with extensive experience working in natural settings on high-profile Environmental Art projects. These include an annual Beach Sculpture Festival and a sculpture trail along the coastal path linking 5 bays on the magnificent Gower peninsula. Not only does it showcase contemporary Welsh Art in an adventurous, inspiring way, but it encourages active lifestyles and attracts eco-tourism. Accordingly, it has received funding from the Welsh Government’s Tourism Product Innovation Fund, which aims to encourage new, innovative product ideas. In 2018 it was a finalist in the Welsh Hospitality Awards, which are intended to showcase “those individuals who work tirelessly to achieve industry-leading success and client satisfaction while promoting excellence in the hospitality sector”.

Clearly “Sculpture by the Sea UK” is a sustainable venture that is addressing SDGs 4 (Quality Education), 3 (Good Health and Well-being), 8 (Decent Work and Economic Growth), 9 (Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure), 14 (Life below Water), 15 (Life on Land) and is a business very much in harmony with people and the environment.

As Sara says  “My vision for the company is that through our workshops, people will be inspired and have the knowledge and creative tools to realise that they can make a difference…

It will take time but prevention is always better than cure.

© (2020-2022). Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from the author is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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