Diver-sculptor’s message to water companies

The Sirens of Sewage in Whitstable, Kent (Jason deCaires Taylor)
The Sirens of Sewage in Whitstable, Kent (Jason deCaires Taylor)

Sculptor and diver Jason deCaires Taylor is renowned among scuba divers and snorkellers for his underwater installations around the world – as well as some above the surface, such as the Ocean Siren that reflects water temperatures on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. 

Now Taylor has turned his attention to a location far closer to his Kent birthplace, with a new topside installation in what he calls his Siren Series

His sculptures are intended to draw attention to hidden threats such as warming oceans, overfishing and plastics pollution, but in this case the target is water-company discharges into public waters.

Sirens of Sewage was intended to be placed in a tidal area along the coast, like Queensland’s Ocean Siren, but Taylor says that resistance from the local authorities in Whitstable meant that it had to be located on private land.

Members of the SOS Whitstable protest group (Jason deCaires Taylor)
Members of the SOS Whitstable protest group (Jason deCaires Taylor)

“Over the past year, alongside the passionate team at SOS Whitstable and the Bertha Foundation, I’ve embarked on an important journey to create a focal point for one of the most persistent and insidious threats facing the UK’s coastlines and waterways,” says Taylor. 

The Sirens of Sewage lifecasts portray a cross-section of the Whitstable seaside community: a coldwater swimmer, a school-child, a kite-surfer, a lifeboat volunteer and a fisherman, with members of SOS Whitstable featured among them.

The School Child with the model (Jason deCaires Taylor)
The School Child with the model (Jason deCaires Taylor)

Described by Taylor as “a group of 10 local activists who have been working tirelessly to hold water companies to account and make the sea safer along the Kent coast”, he says he hopes that the artwork “serves as a testament to their struggle and ongoing resilience”.

The sculptor hopes to see either nationalisation or more stringent regulation of the UK’s water industry. 

The Ocean Sentinel on the Great Barrier Reef changes colour to reflect sea temperatures (Jason deCaires Taylor)
The Ocean Sentinel on the Great Barrier Reef changes colour to reflect sea temperatures (Jason deCaires Taylor)

“The simultaneous installation of this new artwork and Southern Water's release of untreated sewage onto the surrounding coastal area for a staggering 89 hours underscores the pressing urgency of the crisis,” he says, adding that such discharges, often carried out overnight or through outlets concealed by tides, remain frequent around Whitstable.

Taylor says that he has now submerged more than 1,200 “living artworks”, sculptures that become colonised by marine life, in underwater museums and sculpture parks over the past 17 years.

Also on Divernet: The diver who likes to leave his mark, Coral Carnival spices up Grenada's underwater park, Ocean Sentinels form new GBR dive trail,  Underwater Museum unmaskedPassing through where they know how to put on a show

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