Sunday, 22 August 2021

Watery tales and seaweed trails


Tales and trails under the sea
Littleborough Arts Festival

7th August 2021

And the rain came down……

A wet day in Hare Hill Park, a very wet day, but people still gathered and splashed their way along paths and over grass and dropped in on a trail of submarine artwork. There was Mr Jellybelly and his ongoing misadventures. A mermaid coyly wrapped in carrier bags reclined in a shrubbery  while a sea serpent born from beads and plastic rubbish, twisted a sinuous path under a yew tree. A shoal of little fish sang their way round the conifers 

We are the little fish,

Swimming through the sea,

We are the little fish,

As brave as we can be

(this link will take you to the musical world of the little fish - sing along and splash....)

My role was to tell stories that grew out of our earlier event…and as we did that, linking pieces on the art-trail with tales of Littleborough Under Waves, our walkers (or perhaps splashers) added new stories, new character to the submarine world of Littleborough

Darting in

Zipping out

Turning all together

Staying close

Staying safe

Whenever there's danger

Who lives in the Littleborough Sea?

Slip in with me and step into

An underwater wildlife documentary...


Under the waves, 

  • Cheetahfish, fast as thoughts, flashes of golden yellow, underwater sunbeams,
  • Friendly Cowfish as big as whales who graze the seaweed fields,
  • Gentle Pandafish, all black and white, grow colourful scales as they get older,
  • While Catfish stroke their long whiskers then slide sneakily away to hunt the mouse-minnows.
  • The blue shimmer of Peacock Perch flaunting fin-fans like feathers, teasing the camera and taunting the film-maker with their beauty….
  • But everyone hides, or flickers away, as a Snakefish in rusty metal armour with teeth swims by.  A forked mermaid’s tail, it has. And every bit of it bites.
  • And there is the Unicorn Sealion, rare, so very rare, and just as well as it will eat anything, everything, it can fit into its wide, toothful mouth.

Sea serpent by Mary Naylor

Jellyfish banner by Maryann Royle

There are Chickenfish here with flippers instead of wings and scales instead of feathers but they still lay eggs, and strut and peck and run away from the pointy red Fox-fish with their caterpillar tails.

There, Nemo, the dogfish, striped brown and white chases a floating ball. He lives in a sunken boat, and has flippers and a waggy tail as strong as any ship’s propellor.

On the seabed, among rocks and sand and lost garden ornaments,

  • Hermit crabs like living in glittery welly boots,
  • Mer-rabbits dig burrows in the sand and use their head fins as ears to listen for danger.
  •  A Spiderfish, eight fins with shell shoes and a helmet made of bottletops, spins webs from the plastic wrapping hoops from packs of cans 
  • A sounder of ferocious pink-skinned Pigfish rummage across the silt, with scales that shimmer into rainbows. Their tusks will cut, their hoof-fins dig and their curly tails make no sense at all.


the first of Alison Cooper's Litte Fish

The underwater world is not always kind or helpful for its occupants. The Crocodile-fish thinks it is fierce and terrifying but is only as long as a pencil. He has good friends who care for him when all the big fish laugh.

There is a lionfish who lives on Florence St. He sleeps in Mummy’s bed and plays with Isaac’s football and has scared everyone away. He yawns and shows teeth as long as fingers and shakes a mane of seaweed and spikes. Then putting on his bottle-top goggles, he steps out into his kingdom and swims away.

Bob, the Merboy

Merboy Bob with his green and blue mohawk, watches a Mermaid friend as she sits on a rock, making a crown of conkers and shells woven together with seaweed and jellyfish slime. If she can complete this, she will become the next Princess of Littleborough.

Many thanks to the Littleborough Arts Festival team and 

to all the cheerfully damp people who joined us on 7th

Throughout this project, the exquisite printed artwork has been provided by Alice Smith,

My work with the stories of Littleborough under the Sea is now finished but the project continues through to a Lantern procession in October when that undersea world will fill with lights and shining fish and maybe even some lantern-ships and octopus-glows.


  • with thanks to Mary Naylor (maker of sea serpents) and Stephanie West (Littleborough Arts Festival)
  • Octopus diver: Alice Smith
  • drawings by our assorted visitors on the day

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