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Bottling the Essence of Watchet

Contains Art needs your help! We need our Watchet community to contribute to the first exhibition at East Quay in Watchet, for the opening of the quayside development in Summer 2021. How would you ‘bottle the essence of Watchet’?

Neville Gabie (artist in residence for the London 2012 Olympics) is curating the first exhibition at East Quay and he is asking you to be part of it. This exhibition is about celebrating the extraordinary power of community and how we might explain what it feels to live in Watchet.

Neville was inspired by the many ‘ships in bottles’ in the collection in Watchet’s Market House Museum. Inside these bottles, whole worlds exist, usually with ships, but not always. We are all familiar with ‘messages in bottles’ - thrown into the sea, hoping they might be found and read by a stranger. There’s magic in these messages; how were they made? Who made them? Who were they made for? Neville was also inspired by how often local people that he spoke to in Watchet said ‘Watchet’s spirit should be bottled’ as if an elixir!

Watch these 6 films to find out how members of Watchet’s community have bottled their ‘Essence of Watchet’:

1 of 6 videos - Check out the other videos in the playlist (top right...)

In recent months many of us have had to rely on those around us and our local community for support. The experience has raised questions about community, and the society in which we live; the value of our connections to other people and to the place in which we find ourselves. If you were able to share one thing about your experience of living in Watchet and put it inside a bottle, what would it be? What is it that you most value about the community around you? What is it that makes our community what it is? If you were able to ‘bottle’ your thoughts visually, how would you approach this?

We want you to enjoy the challenge of working out how and what and why - and of contributing to the first ever exhibition in the new East Quay Gallery. By collecting these bottles from as many of you as possible, we will be able to include them in the very first exhibition as a collection of your bottled imagination. Your captured ‘essence of Watchet’ will be preserved and presented as messages to those who visit. We will display these bottles as a fleet (did you know that ‘fleet’ is the collective noun for bottles?) and in doing so hope to prove that we are more together than alone.

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What do you do now?
  • Use any clear glass bottle, jar or container you can find. But it must be glass (not plastic).
  • Find out about techniques used to put things in bottles by following the links below.
  • Attend a virtual ‘bottle party’ if you want to – we have infiltrated the community with a preliminary group of bottlers, many of whom are keen to host ‘bottle parties’ allowing them to talk through their own successes and challenges and with which Neville can also attend.
  • Make your bottle – Fiona holds some supplies of tools and materials at the Visitors Centre which may support your bottling ideas.
  • Tie a label to your bottle with your name, a title for your work and a brief explanation of your thinking around the theme of community.
  • Take your bottle to Watchet Visitors Centre (presently 10am-3pm Thursday-Saturday) or arrange a time to drop it into the Onion/Contains Art office at Harbour Road Studios (due to current safe working practices, the team are mainly working from home) to be stored until the exhibition opens in summer 2021.
  • We would like to receive your bottles as soon as possible.

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Questions and Support

Neville is available to answer any questions, to attend bottle parties or just to have a chat about your ideas – please contact him directly on or 07876 597955.

Fiona at the Visitor’s Centre is available to answer queries during opening hours on 01984 632101 or pop in to see her. Fiona also holds a supply of useful tools and materials available for hire/use.

PDF Useful Tools & Materials

Register your interest in the project, by sending an email to and we will keep you updated with workshop dates, links and conversation forums.

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How to put a ship in a bottle

Below are some tutorials on how to put a ship in a bottle... have fun!

PDF Download PDF links

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