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coupleInspire and Wansbeck District Council presents:

The UK's first permanent offshore sculpture is developing its very own sea legs…

Text Box: Artist Sean Henry standing between  the two bronze Couple figures.
Text Box: The sculpture’s stub piles and foundations under construction by Westminster Dredging.

August will see the installation of Sean Henry’s Couple sculpture at Newbiggin Bay in Northumberland with an official public launch ceremony taking place in September; the 12.5 metre high artwork (twice the height of a double-decker bus) will be sited on a new 200m long breakwater, as part of a £10m coastal protection scheme – making it the UK's first permanent offshore sculpture.  The concept has started to capture the imagination of residents of Newbiggin by the Sea and also generate big interest from national and international media. 

The first signs of the artwork site are now clearly visible, as 6 stub piles can be seen 350 metres from the shore. The stub piles form part of the base for the sculpture’s 7.5 metre high steel pier, on which the two 5 metre high male and female figures will stand. Artist Sean Henry and a specialist team are nearing completion of the Inspire-commissioned sculpture at Castle Fine Arts foundry in Liverpool, with the months of meticulous work ensuring Couple’s place as one of the most hotly anticipated artworks to be launched this year.       

"Over the past few weeks watching the breakwater, new beach and the foundations for Couple take shape has been a moving and exciting experience - as an arts professional and as a resident of the village," said Richard Hollinshead, Public Art consultant for Inspire, the commissioning body behind Couple.

The breakwater scheme is believed to be the first of its kind to be initiated along the Northeast coastline - strengthening the Bay's coastal defences and re-creating the beach, which in its heyday attracted thousands of visitors and day-trippers from across the country and beyond. Interest in the project continues to build, with an army of over 800,000 global information seekers accessing the Newbiggin Reborn website to catch up on the latest progress.

Principal contractor Westminster Dredging have had the arduous task of transporting 500,000 tonnes of sand from off the Lincolnshire coastline and pumping it ashore to create Newbiggin Bay's new beach. With 75 years of coastal engineering experience behind them, Westminster Dredging have made rapid progress in creating the new breakwater structure and transforming the beach, and have been warmly welcomed by a community keen to see positive changes to their environment. But installing a sculpture on the scale of Couple has been a new challenge for the company:

"The introduction of the sculpture is a first for us, and has produced some interesting technical issues; as is often the way, what makes an impressive artwork can also create a great engineering challenge! Couple will set the project apart from all other coastal schemes. With its location at the centre of the bay it will provide a focal point for a project that the community can be proud of for many years to come."said Matt Hosey, Coastal Development Manager for Westminster Dredging.

That sense of challenge is echoed by Ian Heijne, the Chief Engineer and Project Director for Atkins, who have been working with Wansbeck District Council on the feasibility and design of this massive scheme for 10 years, and who are now supervising construction works on site.

Ian Heijne said:Couple provided Atkins with a unique opportunity to integrate artwork into the engineering design of the breakwater structure. The structure design has provided a focus for the whole project team to rise to the challenge.”

And now the theme of creative challenge that the partners have brought to the project has also been taken up by local residents, as Inspire (South East Northumberland Public Art & Design Initiative) has developed a major creative engagement programme. Using the theme of Couple and looking at the scientific aspects of the breakwater scheme, creative activities are underway in schools across the district of Wansbeck and in two Northumberland residential homes. All residents of the village have been invited to get involved in a poetry picture postcard competition.

Supporters of Couple include: Northumberland Strategic Partnership (NSP); Defra (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs); Wansbeck District Council;Inspire (South East Northumberland Public Arts & Design Initiative); Newbiggin Life; Arts Council England; Northern Rock Foundation; One NorthEast; SENNTRi and Creative Partnerships Northumberland.

Installation date: Please note that no official installation date can be issued at this stage, as it all depends on a weather window and the vital construction stages of the breakwater sea defence.  The media will be notified once the date has been confirmed.

Garry Smith - Strictly Press (arts & education related issues)

T:         0191 2892809                
M:        078 99910823    

Ian Leech - Wansbeck District Council (Environmental & Construction issues - breakwater)

T:         01670 532291                


Press Pack: There will be a press pack issued in July by Strictly Press in the run up to the launch of Couple - for further details or to set up any interview opportunities please contact Garry Smith of Strictly Press on (0191) 2892809 or 0789 9910823 –  If you require any promotional images to accompany a potential article or you wish to set up an interview with anyone from the project team please register your request with Strictly Press. 

Useful Resource Websites:

Download this press release (Microsoft Word Document)

Newbiggin Reborn:  
Newbiggin Bay: 
Westminster Dredging:  
Sean Henry's official site:

Text Box:couple

Sean Henry photos by Mark Pinder

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