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Moray youngsters have hand in creating award-winning 'Moths to a Flame' art installation for COP26

By Lorna Thompson

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MORAY children were among thousands around the world who helped to create an award-winning COP26 art installation.

The Moray Youth Work team has led various sessions since summer at which local children made moths from recyclable plastic milk cartons for the "Moths to a Flame" art project.

The mass-participation project was kicked off in Devon by the Art and Energy Collective, which came up with the "craftivism" response to the climate emergency.

Moths to a Flame saw 20,000 milk-carton moths made by people of all ages, from all over the UK and internationally.

Each moth carried an environmental message from its maker.

The impactful UV-illuminated Moths to a Flame display was open throughout COP26 at Glasgow's Botanic Gardens.

Moray children got involved when Elgin youth worker Marc Doherty learned about the project and held a craft session to make the moths at an Elgin Reconnect pop-up event at Cooper Park in summer.

Marc's colleague, Tracy Robbie, youth worker for the Lossiemouth ASG, then ran with the idea, using the activity as an engagement tool to trigger discussions about climate change. She got some local schools involved, including Hopeman and St Gerardine primaries and Lossiemouth High School.

Pupils at Lossiemouth High also decided to create their own moths installation in the school foyer.

Tracy, COP26 lead for Moray Youth Work, eventually sent off more than 300 moths for inclusion in the installation.

Buckie youngsters Sonny and Andie Belcher with their milk-carton moths at Elgin's Cooper Park.
Buckie youngsters Sonny and Andie Belcher with their milk-carton moths at Elgin's Cooper Park.
St Gerardine Primary children with their moth creations.
St Gerardine Primary children with their moth creations.
'Moths to a Flame' at Glasgow's Botanic Gardens.
'Moths to a Flame' at Glasgow's Botanic Gardens.

She said: "The project was so simple. And the moths weren't really the point – it was about the conversations.

"The youngsters benefited from being able to express their thoughts about climate change. They are worried, and different people are worried about different aspects.

"The collective noun is a 'whisper' of moths. Kids felt they really wouldn't have a voice to get through to the world leaders at COP26. But all these whispers of moths add up to make a big noise.

"That really appealed to them that they could have an important input. It was wonderful."

The moths project has since inspired the establishment of a Lossie High School Climate Warriors group, which meets weekly at Lossie Youth Café.

Moth makers in Moray included Buckie youngsters Sonny (8) and Andie (6) Belcher, who took part in Moray Youth Work's Cooper Park session.

Their mum, Nicola, said: "It has been lovely to see photos of the final art installation. The project looks very effective.

"Sonny, Andie and their cousins, Arwen and Ianthe, were delighted to have contributed to the award-winning art project, thanks to Moray Youth Work.

"We regularly go beach cleaning where they find plastic all the time which we take home to recycle properly, so it was nice to be able to use plastic for this project positively and have a voice at the climate conference."

The art installation went on to win the Sustainability First People's Choice Art Prize 2021 at COP26.

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