Luke Jerram, Withdrawn – What does the future hold for our environment?

Walking through Leigh Woods in Bristol two weeks ago, we had prepared ourselves for something out of the ordinary, something like we’d never seen before. Ready for an overload of thoughts and emotions, we turned the bend of the foliage lined path to witness the beautiful, surreal and poetic vision of Luke Jerram’s Withdrawn, a flotilla of ‘abandoned’ fishing boats installed in the depths of the woodland.


Image by Paul Box

Withdrawn is an innovative artwork by British artist Luke Jerram, exploring ideas connected to the sustainability of our natural world. It has been commissioned by the National Trust,working in partnership with the Forestry Commission England as part of Bristol 2015.

Standing amidst the boats- ‘Gloria Jean’, ‘Joanne Marie’, ‘Martha’, ‘Seahorse’ and ‘Grey Gull’ – all lovingly named by their past captains, a wave of questions rushed through the small crowd, and the eerily gorgeous vision was incomparable to anything we’d ever seen before. The boats are all facing the same direction, as if washed up by the tide, or sailing together.  Our favourite part of our visit was listening to kids explain how they thought that the boats had landed in the woods.


Image by Paul Box

Luke Jerram’s multidisciplinary arts practice involves the creation of sculptures, installations and live artworks. Luke’s artistic work often explores and expands our understanding of our role within the environment – both socially and ecologically. The result of conversations with fishermen, scientists, and specialists in marine life, Withdrawn uses art to encourage us to reflect upon the impact humanity is having on our seas. Whether this is through commercial exploitation in overfishing, or climate change and pollution, the future of our complex environment is uncertain. This thought-provoking and engaging exhibition raises discussion about climate change, extreme weather, changing ocean temperatures, falling fish stocks and our impact on the marine environment.


Image by Jamie Brightmore

Jerram explains, “I wanted to raise awareness around the decline of the fishing industry in the South West. For several decades, unsustainable fishing practices, have caused fish stocks of many species to collapse. With less fish in the sea, it’s often not financially viable to use a small fishing vessel to fish with. Withdrawn is also a response to the extreme weather and apocalyptic imagery we’ve seen in the media recently – the floods on the Somerset Levels last winter and further afield, Hurricane Katrina and the tsunami in Japan, where cars were floating down streets and houses submerged in water. The positioning of these boats in Leigh Woods presents a similarly uncanny scenario that reminds us of a possible future if we don’t address climate change now.”


Withdrawn by Luke Jerram

The installation can be discovered through a walk in Leigh Woods or visitors can attend one of the series of events taking place throughout the summer from choral performances, theatre, lectures, live film events and night-time cycle rides. The events programme will culminate on 23rd August with a talk by the University of Bristol, Cabot Institute, which will explore the challenges of environmental change. The exhibition runs until September 2015 and is free of charge.

Withdrawn was commissioned by the National Trust, working in partnership with Arts Council England. It is one of six arts projects funded by the Arts Council England, Exceptional Fund, as part of Bristol’s year as European Green Capital.

Come back to House of Coco soon for more on wonderful Bristol!

Leigh Woods National Nature Reserve,

Bristol City,


Caoilfhionn Rose

Caoilfhionn is a freelance travel writer who enjoys slow travel and avoiding landmarks in favour of diving into a destination's culture. Instagram: @CaoilfhionnRose

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