An inspiring message made from the same materials used for the globally renowned No New Worlds light installation has been switched on and is beaming from the top of one of Plymouth’s most recognisable buildings.
The top five storeys of the Civic Centre now spell out a poem with a scrolling message, edited from a longer text written by Booker Prize-winning author Sir Ben Okri, in response to the climate emergency.
These emotive sentences emanate from the central refrain: ‘LOVE IS THE HIGHEST ECONOMY OF LIFE’, and together call for collective change towards a more simple way of living within the finite resources of our beautiful planet. The installation will be visible from early October.
The poem will scroll across the building day and night, viewable from different parts of the city, and was switched on Monday, October 3.
Okri’s text was chosen with Plymouth’s proud social identity in mind – the city’s spirit of togetherness that’s rooted in kindness and kinship. It states clearly and powerfully what we fundamentally need both for survival and to grow as a community.
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The installation echoes the regeneration of the city centre and how it can be used inclusively to embrace different cultures and communities. The project has been commissioned by Plymouth Culture, the organisation which supports cultural organisations and projects in the city, with funding from Historic England’s High Street Heritage Action Zone cultural programme.
The installation has been created by the artistic collective Still Moving with Josh Kopeček, in collaboration with the poet Ben Okri. Still Moving designed the remarkable NO NEW WORLDS installation that stood on Mount Batten Pier in 2020 – the very same light discs have been used to create the scrolling 14m high message atop the Civic Centre. They are super efficient, low-power LED bulbs, that will use less than 1kw of power when running – less than a toaster.
Like NO NEW WORLDS, this new message looks to a future threatened by the climate crisis – asking what else can save our world but love and working together for a common good.
Hannah Harris, CEO of Plymouth Culture, said: “This emotive message prompts us to think how our public spaces could be used differently in our urban centre for different communities.
“For example, the Meanwhile Use project over the past year has seen empty or neglected spaces brought back to life for creative or artistic uses.
“It also speaks to Plymouth’s identity as a city whose people are proud to support each other and come together in times of need. This special kinship and innate kindness have very much driven this concept.”
The powerful phrase would appear on the screen on a cyclical schedule, interspersed with additional passages from Okri’s text “Our Love Must Save The World” which have been re-edited by Ben to form the poem.
The return of the light discs to their ‘home city’ of Plymouth is a poignant moment. The original No New Worlds installation by Still Moving sparked global headlines and it was recreated with the support of Greenpeace during the COP26 conference in Glasgow in 2021 to huge acclaim.
The artistic collective believes this new installation will resonate with people in Plymouth and turn the normally static Civic Centre into a canvas for conversations.
They said: “The chance to powerfully reuse these materials in their home city brings a truly exciting focus to the work of regenerating Plymouth, reactivating the city centre in a way that is not dominated by the monetary economy, but forefronts the economy of a community.
“The health of our home very much depends on the health of our planet and its equilibrium has suffered greatly by prioritising money.
“This message aims to stimulate debate across the city about these critical questions, animating the Civic Centre and providing an alluring focus for image making and sharing across traditional and social media.”
This is the second time the Civic Centre has been lit up with a message this year – in January the statement ‘What Will You Make Of It?’ read from the building’s windows, as part of the visit of British Art Show 9 to Plymouth.
Rebecca Barrett, South West Regional Director at Historic England, said: “The light installation, part of the High Street Heritage Action Zone Cultural Programme, promises to be inspiring and thought-provoking. It’s great to see the Civic Centre as a focus for hopeful messages, particularly around working together. That’s fundamental to the success of Plymouth’s regeneration, which we’re proud to be part of.”
Councillor Tom Briars-Delve, Plymouth City Council’s Cabinet Member for Environment and Climate Change, said: “Culture has the power to shock and inspire. We hope that spotlighting artworks like this in prominent Plymouth locations will encourage people to further engage with the climate emergency and, more importantly, the opportunities we all have to reduce our impact on the planet.”