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Newbiggin beach replenishment project
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couple in placeCOUPLE was placed on the breakwater, Newbiggin by the Sea on the evening of 17th August 2007.

In November 2007 a miniature version of Couple was installed at Vernon Place.

See the August Gallery for more views of COUPLE.

BBC News Web Site story - click here

Image from BBC News - Bigger Picture

There are several strands to the arts and creative side of the bay replenishment project, most of them organised by INSPIRE, an organisation which encourages the involvement of art and artists with local communities throughout Northumberland.

As well as the Sean Henry sculpture COUPLE, which is situated on the new breakwater, with a smaller version located at Vernon Place, there is a music project, facilitated by LOON and a writing project facilitated by NEW WRITING NORTH. Details of each of these is outlined below.

couple painted

"Here are a few snaps of the sculpture, which I finally finished painting this week. They are drying out now in Liverpool and should be ready to ship to Newbiggin quite soon. I should add that while they obviously look quite massive indoors, it will be interesting to see how they change when outside, surrounded by sea and sky, and of course installed on the pier/platform." Sean Henry, 3rd August 2007

COUPLE: Sean Henry [see press release]

Click here to see a short film about COUPLE

Sean Henry speaks to

Newbiggin will be leading the North East’s cultural renaissance with the arrival of one of the UK’s first ever permanent offshore sculptures, entitled Couple.

Comprising two five metre tall bronze figures – a man and a woman - standing on the new breakwater and looking out to sea, this unique commission by the South East Northumberland Public Art & Design Initiative (INSPIRE), has been created by internationally renowned artist Sean Henry.

Couple will be secured to a steel plinth and integrated into the breakwater so that, during high tides, it will give the impression of standing on the water’s surface.

London-based Henry (41), a full-time sculptor for nearly 20-years, took his inspiration for Couple from the scale of the breakwater. He decided the project should have three distinct elements: the tapered steel pier platform and the two figures. He always wanted to have more than one figure to reflect a shared experience and intends to create an air of mystery by keeping the figures anonymous - looking out to sea with their backs to the shore.

The work is already under construction and is expected to be put in place in mid to late July.

“This spectacular setting will provide a unique context for Henry’s work, creating a wonderful platform for what, in spite of its size, is an intimate sculpture which speaks to all of us,” said Peter Osborne, Director of Osborne Samuel Gallery in London. “Couple will be accepted and appreciated as a key element in the visual statement made by the new breakwater.”

Download the INSPIRE Postcard (PDF)

Related links :


By Rose Shillito - 24 Hour Museum web site

Commissions North -

IC Newcastle - Glimpse of Sea Gazing Giants

London Launch of Couple (PDF)

Walking on Water (BBC Web site)

Osbourne Samuel web site article

Sean Henry's web site

Newbiggin bay, working on the bay project, diggers, sand, crane

sean henry

Inspire (South East Northumberland Public Art & Design Initiative) commissioned New Writing North and Loon to develop a writing and science & music programme to involve the people of Newbiggin in the lead up to the installation of Sean Henry’s sculpture Couple.


Couple Poetry Postcards Competition - the winners!

The featured poems were written by winners of the Newbiggin by the Sea poetry competition, which was open to residents of Newbiggin and it's surrounding areas. The competition marked the installation of Couple, an offshore sculpture by Sean Henry, which is situated in Newbiggin Bay. The photographs of people and places in Newbiggin by the Sea were taken by local photographer Jason Thompson.


Silent, unmoving, watching the changing face of the sea
Witnessing the bravery of the Lifeboat crews as they battle to save lives
Feeling the wind, the spray, the sun and the rain
Hearing the raucous cry of seabirds as they feed upon the sea’s bounty
Listening to the joyful sound of children playing on the beach
Being observed by curious holidaymakers wondering who they are,
Why they are there and what they are seeing
And all the time the Couple stand silent, unmoving, staring out to sea.

Denise Wealleons



Breath in Breath out
Ebb and Flow
Now and then
touch to feel it
take it or leave it

Balance it on your linear palm
Salute the sky nice and calm
skim a stone into the sea
it is yours to set free
Alone again to touch to feel it
now and then we take it or leave it

Eric Rothwell


Newbiggin Saturday

You get a better view through these
the woman in the purple fleece
holds out her binoculars to us
her husband comes over
Just move that dial for to get the focus right
and their daughter’s moving to Barnard Castle next week

She went up first
they’d stayed till gone ten to watch
this morning when they came back
he’d joined her

A wedding party washes out of the church behind us
two bridesmaids act daft on the grass
guests hold shivery smiles, all high heels and gooseflesh
longing to board the minibus, get a drink down them

The bride and her man lift her dress to hike up her petticoats – in full view
we buy 99s from Tommy’s Soft Ices
watch them pose – couples, till death
or a North Sea fret, do them part

Judy Walker


Newbiggin Couple

A couple of children with their bucket and spade,
A couple of puppies that can’t behave,
A couple of women having a chat,
A couple of men in their pitman caps,
A couple in love, hand in hand,
A couple of kids running across the sand,
A man and his dog, who is chewing a bone,
Two young ladies who feel right at home,
Couples who have been married for many years,
Couples who’ve shared laughter, joy and tears,
A couple looking out to sea at fishermen’s boats,
Lots of couples on the prom, wrapped up in their coats,
A couple so silent and ever so still,
Surrounded by water, yet don’t feel a chill,
They stand there with pride and represent change,
Their thoughts are still, but this is not strange.
This couple standing out at sea,
Represent us all – that’s You and Me!

Julie Ann Carr


Out Far (after Robert Frost)

The couple staring out to sea
Never glance at you or me.
Perhaps there are better things to see
By dreaming of where we want to be.

Terry Kelly





First Glimpse of the Sea

Running down Windsor Road
glimpsing the sea as we ran.
My small cousin Harold
lightly holding my hand.
Reaching the top of Horse Shoe Steps
we stopped to catch our breath
and Harold shouted out
with what puff he had left
Oh, look at all the soapy water!
He’d never seen a rough sea before.

Peggy Punton


By the Edge of the Sea

In morning’s light
a fabulous shore of quiet sand
stretched before us.
An ebb tide left our bare feet imprints,
a thin line of shingle
to dry under a fragmented sky.
Five geese cranked their way to breeding grounds,
across a world of seeming emptiness.
Sea winds pierced our solitude.
Sand between our toes more definite,
a wet hem slapped against her legs
whilst my rolled up trousers
no longer gave us cause for laughter.
A brooding background of pounding breakers
together with a cloistered sense of reverence
made us turn, retrace our non-existent prints
as though we had never been
in such idyllic times of but an hour’s history.

Tom Nesbit


Artistic Couples

The pencil and the rubber in a snooze,
Stool and dusty desk below the clock.
Paint and brush, pen and ink,
Rusty key and lock.

The ruler and the compass share a tin,
Crayons with the glue across the floor.
Chalk and board, clay and wheel,
Two aprons on the door.

Sticky tape and scissors in a box,
Drawing pins and clips inside a jug.
Coloured card and cut-outs,
Glove puppets in a hug.

Cardboard tubes in argument,
Standing on their heads.
Stars and glitter, gems and beads,
Dolls in blues and reds.

Candle wax and wooden pegs,
Twigs with leaves and flowers.
Patchwork quilts and paper plates,
Falling matchstick towers.

Tom Patterson and Catrina


(A Sonnet)

Epitome of Eighties’ chic, this room
Expensive, in an understated way,
Brass lamps illuminate through winter gloom
A sea of shag-pile carpet, silver-grey.
My first and only visit to his home.
My married lover pulls me to the floor
We couple on the carpet, each alone,
And things come clear I’ve never seen before.
This pristine living room – split-level, smart
Accessories precisely in their place
A show-house to impress, without a heart
Reflects its owner’s empty inner space.
Rude wakening in this room, contrived and cold,
When rosy glasses fell and sight took hold.

Trudi Michaluk

Visit for more information about local writing projects.


loonMusic Project - LOON

Loon is a made up of five musical troubadours from across England. Composers, musicians, artists and filmmakers brought together by wit, a passion for World Music, and a mission to blend their unique styles into one enigmatic ensemble.

Their eclectic music is warm, experimental, generous, contagious, beautiful, slightly unpredictable, and covers the world from Eastern Europe to France and Latin America to Japan as well as traditional songs from Zimbabwe and South Africa to Ireland.

Together for eleven years, Loon combine the seriousness of writing and composing with the fun and frivolity of performing and entertaining. Composition credits include Scottish Ballet, The Theatre Royal, the WOW Festival, Going for Green, No Limits Theatre, numerous ISIS collaborations, Dodgy Clutch Theatre, Nitin Sawhney and Anthem for Northumberland, as well as many short films.

Music and science programme of events/workshops from
May – September 2007

Science Summary

Over the summer we will conduct a range of science workshops, demonstrations and presentations.
These sessions will include: Simulations of the beach recharge; wave pools; breakwaters and wave diffraction. Each of these activities will be demonstrated in a fun and informative way, allowing participants in each session to explore some of the physics involved in the engineering project. Participants will use fish tanks, siphon tubes, paddling pools and sand amongst many materials.

In addition to the physics and engineering we will explore some biology of Newbiggin Bay through work with a visual artist and our resident marine biologist Marek Gabrysch.

Music Summary

Running alongside the science sessions, often simultaneously, we will run a series of music sessions that are informed by Sean Henry’s Couple Sculpture and the science that surrounds the project. Workshops will include: engineering demonstrated through musical instrument making using industrial materials; song writing using the Latin names of the sea life found beneath the breakwater and composition inspired by the Couple Sculpture, the beach recharge and the rich heritage of Newbiggin. Along side all of this creativity we will not neglect the fundamental basis of all sound…. Waves!

Workshop and session details:

Throughout June July and August
Composition of new piece of music to celebrate the Newbiggin beach recharge and installation of the sculpture.

Mon - wed 2 - 4 July (Monday Moorside, Tuesday Windsor, Wednesday Newbiggin Middle)
Playing in the assemblies of the three schools in Newbiggin
To update pupils on the progress of the sculpture and to invite them to participate in a workshop in September.

Following each assembly performance there will be a science and songwriting workshop for the whole morning at each school. This will include a presentation on the engineering work and the environmental impacts and will be followed by science related activities including practical demonstrations i.e. recharging your own beach, wave pools and diffraction leading into music making around the idea of waves and songwriting about the creatures in the sea, their Latin names and the geological changes that have occurred over the years at Newbiggin.

Thurs 5th July
History Group
Workshop continuing from previous session

Sat 7th July
Loon to attend community awareness event at Newbiggin Middle School
Loon to perform. Music making from pipes and sand with more demonstrations (see above)

Saturday 21st July
Activity day at Nevins Nibbles (formerly Bertorelli’s) 10 am to 4pm
Including music, science demonstrations and visual arts poetry reading and performance

Fridays 20th, 27th, July. 3rd, 24th August
Workshops Sure start
Composition and performance sessions
Participants to be early years and their parents/carers
Have discussed use of sensory equipment with a view to installing a sensory tent for the event.
Friday 3rd august
Workshop in Leisure centre
Composition using instruments we brought along and some the participants made on the day.
Composing themes - the sea, sand, recharging the beach, machinery, and the couple at night.

Fridays 7th at Windsor first school, 14th at Moorside first school, and 21st September at Newbiggin Middle school.
Music workshops to run up to the event on the 22nd. Workshop content to be discussed with the schools individually as their has been some interest expressed from Windsor first school to run an African music workshop to tie in with a project they are starting with a school in a country in Africa.

Visit their web site at

Sean Henry photos by Mark Pinder

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