Belfast Telegraph

Mystery over Strangford Lough's glowing balls is solved

By Linda Stewart

These softly glowing spheres on The Narrows at Strangford Lough have been mystifying fishermen, tourists and locals since they showed up on Saturday night.

Some reckon that the orbs are new markers for lobster pots or illuminated buoys, while the more romantic suggest they are will o’ the wisps or even aliens.

In fact, the spheres are an art installation, Mega-microscopic Life, to celebrate the life thriving, unseen beneath the surface of the lough.

Each of them is illuminated by 400 strips of light, giving a total of 2,000 lights representing the living lough.

And the project has been shrouded in secrecy, as Strangford Lough & Lecale Partnership manager Caroline Nolan explains.

“We worked closely with the artists to ensure that the orbs were launched with maximum discretion as we wanted people simply to come upon these fantastic pieces, discovering them almost by chance,” she said.

“The idea is that everyone who sees them will not only enjoy their ethereal beauty but will be prompted to wonder what they represent — and why they have suddenly appeared on Strangford Lough.”

The orbs were created by local artists Clare Lawson and Ngaire Jackson of Red Apple Arts. As both artists are from Portaferry, they have a real appreciation of the region and a desire to create an installation which would reflect the complexity of the lough’s ecosystem.

Caroline Nolan said: “The life beneath the surface of the lough may be largely unseen, but that doesn’t mean it should be unappreciated. Knowing more about the natural life in and around Strangford Lough adds considerably to the pleasure of visiting the area, deepening and enriching the experience.

“We’re hoping that our glowing mega-microscopic orbs will help to cast some light on life in this internationally important site.”

Isabel Hood, chair of the Advisory Committee, is keen that the orbs will pique the curiosity of visitors.

“These beacons of inspiration are a very fitting and novel way to launch the Celebrate Strangford Lough Festival,” she said.

“Importantly, however, one of the overall aims of the Partnership is to protect the many stunning natural and historic treasures of the Strangford and Lecale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

"We encourage everyone to come down to Strangford, not just to see the fantastic orbs and enjoy the festivities, but to explore a little deeper the natural and historic delights that we have on our doorstep and the work that the Partnership carries out.”

The installation was commissioned by the Strangford Lough & Lecale Partnership as part of its Celebrate Strangford Lough Festival, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

It offers a spectacular weekend of events from May 20-22.

Details can be found at www.strangfordlough.org. Tickets for the festival’s events can be purchased in Tourist Information Centres and via the Strangford Lough and Lecale Partnership Office in Portaferry. Telephone: |028 42729005, or email: admin@strangfordlough.org.

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