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Victorian ship vs. world's biggest jelly art

ss Great Britain on a sea of jelly

Victorian steamship the ss Great Britain ‘floated’ on a giant sea of neon lime green jelly – for Museums at Night (May 18 and 19).

The 55,000-litre jelly installation was the latest work from food artists Bompas & Parr, also known as the ‘Jellymongers’. It was the world’s biggest ever jelly art, and part of the Museums at Night 2012 ‘Connect10’ initiative, which ran across the UK and linked 10 museums with 10 artists.

Jelly and the historic iron ship, designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel, combined to create stunning artwork. More than 2,600 visited Brunel’s ss Great Britain in Bristol over the weekend to view the jelly installation.

Many millions watched the artists at work and the finished art installation on television and on websites. At one point over the weekend it was the most viewed news story on the BBC’s website, and attracted 555,868 hits on Saturday (May 19).

Media coverage included national and regional BBC news, CBBC Newsround, ITV and Sky Arts, as well as the Arts Council and film production companies for German and Italian television and national and local press. People also used social media, especially Twitter, Facebook and Flickr, to share pictures and comments.

Artists Sam Bompas and Harry Parr, supported by their technicians, wore red jumpsuits during the day on Friday (May 18) to mix, pour and spread the vegetarian seaweed-based jelly onto the glass plate surrounding the ss Great Britain. 

The choice of neon lime green and fragranced jelly was inspired by the historic use of the citrus fruit by sailors to prevent the vitamin deficiency disease of scurvy. 

Usually covered in water (and not jelly), the glass plate acts as the roof of a giant dehumidification chamber. The Victorian ship appears to be afloat, and visitors can descend below the glass ‘sea’ which is lit up for events. 

Previous work from Bompas & Parr has included a jelly replica of St Paul’s Cathedral, a giant jelly cocktail lake and a chocolate 30ft climbing wall. Celebrity clients have included the music producer Mark Ronson and pop star Peter Andre. Their next work will be a crazy golf course, featuring iconic landmarks and made of cake, built on the roof of Selfridges in London.

Brunel’s ss Great Britain opened late from 6pm to 9pm on May 18 and 19. Visitors also stepped back in time in the Dockyard Museum, explored the ss Great Britain, saw objects held in the Brunel Institute, and listened to talks from staff and volunteers. 

As well as looking and smelling wonderful, the event was huge fun and attracted families, art lovers and foodies. Highlights of the May 18 evening launch included Sam Bompas using a load hailer to urge the assembled crowd to shout ‘bring out the jelly’, and inviting visitors to tuck into a giant bowl of lime green jelly.

The ss Great Britain Trust’s Director of Marketing, Communications and Development, Sally Cordwell, commented: “Arguably, this was the most ambitious special event Brunel’s ss Great Britain has ever held. Bompas and Parr are two of the UK’s most exciting and creative artists. They helped us to push the boundaries for museums, and to introduce Brunel’s ss Great Britain to new audiences.

“Linking modern art with an historic iron ship is ingenious. We have of course no way of knowing what Brunel might have thought of the 55,000 litres of lime green neon jelly around his ship. We do know, however, that he was himself a talented artist as well as an engineer, and was never afraid of a challenge.”

She added: “This was a once-in-a-lifetime event, and we are delighted with what the artists Bompas &n Parr achieved, and the excitement and interest it created amongst visitors and non-visitors alike.”

Harry Parr, one half of the artistic duo, explained: “Bompas & Parr is about making experiences for people to enjoy, to have a lot of fun, and discover something new, and maybe look at something in a way that they haven’t looked at it before.”

Sam Bompas commented: “We turned the glass plate that surrounds the ship into a vast jelly, in fact it was the biggest jelly the world has ever seen.”

 

Arts Council video of the Bompas & Parr jelly installation at Brunel’s ss Great Britain in Bristol