First There is a Mountain

09 Jun 19
Katie Paterson

Join us on Portstewart Strand from 11am–3pm on Sunday 9 June 2019 to be a part of artist Katie Paterson’s First There is a Mountain.

First There is a Mountain is a nationwide participatory event taking place over summer 2019, starting on the first day of British Summer Time, 31 March, and ending on 27 October. At each location participants will sculpt beaches into thousands of miniature sand mountain ranges to form ephemeral micro-geologies.

Fifty sets of buckets and spades will be available to use on the day. The ‘buckets’ are specially created hollow scale models of five of the world’s most famous mountains: Mount Kilimanjaro (Africa), Mount Shasta (North America), Mount Fuji (Asia), Stromboli (Europe), and Uluru (Oceania).

First There is a Mountain poetically connects world mountains to the smallest grains of sand. The artwork invites people to slow down and consider the interconnectedness of the world, from shifting coastlines across millennia, to our own eroding coastline.

25 writers have been invited to write a text, one for each location. Patrick Barkham has been invited to write the text for Portstewart Strand, which will be read aloud on the day in English and in Irish translation.

Find out more about the project here and read more about it below:

How to take part:

There are three ways to get involved:
1. Be a part of making this event happen as a guide/volunteer (contact to find out how.)
2. Take part in building the mountain ranges as a participant, all ages and abilities welcome. Turn up at any time between 11am and 3pm to join in.
3. As a viewer – come and watch Portstewart Strand transform. All are welcome.

Parking and access:

Parking available on the beach
Mobility toilet at the end of the road leading to the beach
Baby-changing facilities available
Footpath and road to beach

More about First There is a Mountain:

Katie Paterson says,

“From early childhood we understand that sand marks time. First There is a Mountain builds upon this concept, making us aware of the erosion of mountain rocks over millennia, rock shifting across Earth through the evolution of continents, forming unique fingerprints of sand across our modern coastline. The artwork invites people to slow down and consider the interconnectedness of the world, its immensity conveyed in miniature. Connecting the archipelago via one water, one tide, one sand – carrying mountains of sand across time. The extraordinary existing in ordinary things, everywhere.”

Paterson selected the mountains using data from NASA’s Shuttle Radar Topography Mission and the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency. The sand buckets are made from 100% fermented plant starch, fully bio-compostable, and at the end of the project they will be composted, absorbed back into the natural environment.

First There is a Mountain is a collaborative cross-disciplinary project, involving twenty-five arts venues around the UK coast, starting with Whitstable Biennale in Kent on 31 March and ending with Focal Point in Essex on 27 October. Twenty-five new pieces of writing have been commissioned to accompany the artwork’s journey. The texts will form a digital anthology, bringing together writing by celebrated authors, poets, geologists, earth scientists, ecologists, and art writers.

Paterson’s art enables us to engage with intangible and immense forces. Time, glaciation, growth, the solar system, fossilisation, electricity, and weather systems provide inspiration for her work, and she often uses sand as a cypher for time and infinitude in her practice. First There is a Mountain continues her enquiry into a recalibration of our understanding of space, time and place.

Elizabeth Newell in collaboration with Siobhan Maguire at Katie Paterson Studio.

First There is a Mountain is supported by the National Lottery through Creative Scotland and Arts Council England.