Artist Katie Paterson invites you to build mountains out of sand with bespoke buckets and spades

If you still jump at the chance to build sandcastles on the beach, then artist Katie Paterson has a touring exhibition just for you.

Launching on 31 March at Leysdown Beach, the Isle of Sheppey, First There is a Mountain invites you to build mountains of sand across the UK coastline and play out the world’s natural geography against a series of tidal times.

To help you, Katie has created five pails that are scale models of five of Earth’s greatest mountains: Mount Kilimanjaro (Africa), Mount Shasta (USA), Mount Fuji (Asia), Stromboli (Europe), and Uluru (Oceania) nested together.

First There is a Mountain is choreographed over the period of daylight saving time during British Summer Time and will go on to tour twenty-five coastal art venues around the UK who will each stage a sand pail building event on their local beach.

At each event, participants will sculpt beaches into hundreds of mountains of sand to form micro-geologies. The artwork’s inevitable ephemerality points to concepts around gravitational attraction – awareness of Earth’s tilted axis during longer daylight hours and the UK’s eroding coastline.

First There is a Mountain is a poetic vehicle that connects diverse world mountains to smallest grains of sand, with participants holding the world’s geography in their hands, time and geology collapsing and connecting through touch.

Katie Paterson says: "From early childhood, we understand that sand marks time. First There is a Mountain builds upon this concept, making us aware of mountain rocks’ erosion over millennia, rock shifting across Earth over continents’ evolution, forming unique fingerprints of sand across our modern coastline.

"The artwork invites the public to slow down. To consider the interconnectedness of the world, its immensity conveyed in miniature. Connecting the archipelago via one water, one tide, one sand – carrying mountains of sand across time. The extraordinary existing in ordinary things, everywhere."

The project is a product of years of planning – matching tide timetables and "looking at every single mountain range on earth". Katie carefully selected each mountain via exacting research, using data from NASA’s Shuttle Radar Topography Mission and the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency.

The sand pails are made from 100% fermented plant starch and are fully bio-compostable. At the end of the tour, they will be composted, reabsorbing back into the natural environment from which they were created and ensuring all participating beaches are left as they were.

You'll be able to track the projects’ progress through the dedicated website at


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