Saturday 13th October: Sailing on a Plastic Sea – Foreshore walk, Laura Copsey & Emma Harry

Our drift walk meandered along the River Thames Foreshore between the Alderman Steps and the Prospect of Whitby on an unusually sunny and warm October Saturday. Timed to coincide with an event co-hosted by Sail Britain and The Artist Expedition Society at St Katharine Docks, we aimed to explore the foreshore and raise awareness of the tragic extent of plastic pollution. 

The walk cemented divergent themes between our practices. We both participated in Sail Britain’s Coastline Project during summer 2018 and hold an ongoing fascination with objects found in the mud along the river. We are inspired by speculative life cycles – newness, oldness, newness again – and how stories can be uncovered or reimagined. The flow of the water and the meandering tides cause the river to organise its artefacts like an archivist with the lighter plastic objects floating in amongst the tide lines and heavier metal or ceramic items settle in the mud of the water line. During our walk we raided the plastic in a 5 minute blitz-beach-clean, horrified that between us we gathered an entire bin bag worth of plastic. If left here, this material will never disappear, only break down into smaller and smaller pieces. We saw evidence of this far out at sea during the summer every time we deployed our water sampling net; micro plastics are everywhere.

The tide was starting to come in and fast so we exited the foreshore on an old iron ladder and back onto what felt more like the real world of a busy London street above. The foreshore is almost a forgotten world of London, but it is full of discoveries and histories of London life. Thanks to those who joined us and sorry about the mud!