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Warning bell sounds for threatened wetlands worldwide

Posted on 25 Jun 2019

Our founder Sir Peter Scott was an artist who captured the wild beauty of our natural environment. He wanted people to ‘fall in love with it again’, and knew that art can be a very powerful tool for engagement.This year, WWT have combined forces with an internationally acclaimed artist to create a piece of art especially for the WWT Llanelli reserve.

The Bell is a striking new installation by Bouke Groen from the Netherlands, who was selected from over 100 artists around the world who submitted proposals to the Soundlands Open Call 2019, a partnership between WWT and arts organisations Soundlands and Migrations, funded by the Arts Council of Wales.

The Bell was chosen because of its direct relevance to the WWT: an antique church bell tolls but is strangely muted within a huge sculpture of glass cubes. It makes for a moving symbol of our increasing disconnection from nature – of a warning not necessarily wanted to be heard.

The Bell will ring 2,431 times whilst at WWT Llanelli, once for every Wetland of International Importance (Ramsar Site) around the world. In the seven minutes of silence between each chiming of The Bell around 1,000ha of valuable wetland habitat are destroyed worldwide.

Dr Brian Briggs, WWT Llanelli’s Reserve Manager, said: “Wetland areas are being squeezed and squeezed. If you rewind 1,000 years, then areas like ours would have been home to beavers, wild cattle and horses.There is a wider story here too. Over the last 100 years, there has been a 50 per cent decline in UK wetlands, and wildlife species are affected by that. Wetlands need our protection, and we hope that our summer visitors will hear The Bell and understand that we can’t ignore the warning. The Bell is a dampened alarm, a metaphor for the signals we need to hear about the implications of climate change, environmental issues, and biodiversity loss.”

The Bell is providing staff and volunteers at WWT Llanelli with an effective tool to engage our visitors in the urgent but uncomfortable issues of climate change and biodiversity loss, through a series of regular guided walks, school sessions, and self-guided trails.

The Bell was launched on 8th June at a well-received opening event attended by Nia Griffiths MP, as well as representatives from local councils, conservation and arts organisations, and it can be visited in the Millennium Wetlands reserve until 11th August.

The Bell has already received national media coverage in Wales, including primetime TV coverage on S4C.We hope that The Bell might go on to tour other WWT Centres in future, please contact WWT Llanelli Reserve Manager Brian Briggs for more information.