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February 5th 2004

About this project

On the night of February 5th 2004 23 migrant workers from eastern China drowned as they gathered cockles from the sands of Morecambe Bay on the coast of north-west England. As a response to the tragedy I created a 40m long ceramic pathway to commemorate those who lost their lives.

The installation is made up of 23 ceramic forms each constructed from red earthenware clay moulded on to individual plaster casts taken from the ripples and depressions in the sands on Morecambe Bay.


installation, ceramics, printing, conceptual, political


Ceramics, Pottery, Printing, Lettering


February 5th 2004
Photographer: S. Wagstaff
Each piece represents one of the lost cockle pickers and uses screenprinted quotations from press reports to highlight the issues of migration, loss and modern slavery. This is a live project. It will not be completed until 2027 by which time each piece will have been returned to the sea 23 years after 23 people lost their lives due to the power of nature and the neglect of others. Individual names have been added in Chinese characters by Taiwanese artist and calligrapher Dr Chun-Chao Chui.
February 5th 2004 : detail
Photographer: S.Wagstaff
The piece is intended as a metaphorical pathway to the families in China who lost relations in the tragedy and expresses the way that the coastal communities of Britain are linked to them by the events of this night. The work is about the universal urge to be adventurous, to improve life and to provide for a family that leads men and women to travel far afield in search of work and prosperity and it is about those who misled them and imperilled their lives. The project acknowledges the forces of nature that still rule our existence despite the sophistication of modern technology.
The Final Phase: the Return to the Sea
Photographer: M.Eden
Since the 10th anniversary commemorations in 2014 I have gradually returned the pieces to the sea. Within one or two days the pieces sink into the sand where they will eventually breakdown and become part of Morecambe Bay and later the ocean. My plan is to return two pieces the sea each year on or around the anniversary of the tragedy and I shall continue to do this for 23 years from the date of the disaster. This will mean that the final piece will be returned to the sea in 2027, if I am not alive others will do it for me. Sometimes I do this alone and sometimes others are with me. This year I was accompanied by the producers of 'Aftermath' for Radio 4. This image shows the pieces for Lin Lishu and Xie Xiaowen when they were returned to the sea on February 5th 2015. The sinking was off the shore at Bolton le Sands within sight of Priests Skeer the sandbank where the cocklers were stranded. Previously returned to the sea were the pieces for Cao Chaokun, Wang Xiuyu, Lin Zhifang and Lin Guohua. In 2016 Lin Guogang and Chen Muyu and in 2017 Lin Youxing and Wu Honkang. In this way the cockle pickers are commemorated and the need to abolish modern day slavery is not forgotten.

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