An artist from Gravesend is creating a life-size Benny the whale sculpture made from used plastic drinks bottles donated by the public to raise awareness of littering and recycling.
Benny the Whale was spotted living in the Thames at Gravesend last year and was recently reported to have finally left the river.
The public will be able to help create the sculpture this summer at three public events in Gravesend, where they will work with professional artists to learn how to transform their drinks bottle into cladding on the framework of the sculpture.
More than one hundred of plastic bottles have been donated to the project led by local artist Amy West already. With hundreds more expected to flood in.
Amy, who has created work for Glastonbury, The Lord Mayor Of London’s annual parade and theatre sets has enlisted the skills of fellow artist Pablo Cattermole to help construct the internal framework for the sculpture, while mud-larker and artist Di Jones who is renowned for creating art from the litter she collects from the banks of the Thames in London is bringing her skills to the workshops this summer.
Amy West said, “Benny made big impact on people from across the UK by living in the Thames locally, and we hope this project can help make a long-lasting impact too, by highlighting how important it is to keep the environment clean. So much litter ends up in the Thames, and the shape and flow of the river means lots collects both in Gravesham and in Swanscombe too from further afield.”
The 3.5 metre-long sculpture (the same size as a male Beluga Whale), will first go on display to the public at the Fusion Festival on the 15 June where people can see the frame work for the sculpture, meet the artist and donate their bottles.
The public can then take part in creating the cladding at Gravesham’s annual Riverside Festival on Saturday 6 July and at the Fringe Festival on Sunday 7 July and Saturday 13 July – both in Gravesend.
While Benny has now left the Thames and his time in Kent, it is hoped the sculpture will help to mark his time spent locally and raise people’s awareness not to litter and reduce the levels of single-use plastic.
The project is supported by The Grand Healthy Living Centre and funded Gravesham Borough Council via a pot of national funding made available for community projects to encourage anti-littering and recycling.
Gravesham Borough Council have seen their recycling levels rise to the highest in Kent.
The workshops are free the public to take part in.
Anyone wanting to donate clean, empty plastic bottles can bring them to The Grand Healthy Living Centre in King Street, Gravesend, Kent, during their core opening hours.