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Sand and deliver ; Real life Thanks to the talents of Nicola Wood, you could come face to face with Justin Bieber, John Lennon, Charlie Chaplin and...

April 27, 2013


Sand and deliver ; Real life Thanks to the talents of Nicola Wood, you could come face to face with Justin Bieber, John Lennon, Charlie Chaplin and Harry Potter this summer. Becky Jones finds out how Nicola carved out her reputation as a sand sculptor

T h e s e intricately-detailed, carefully-crafted sand sculptures are the work of one very talented Leicestershire woman. Nicola Wood, 30, from Markfield, has been producing the transient pieces of art since 2006, and is about to start work on her latest projects at the Weston-super-Mare and Brighton sand sculpture festivals, which she runs with her business partner, Alec Messchaert.

We do everything, from organising the water and electricity to making sculptures. There's a lot to do here, says Nicola, speaking from Brighton beach where, over the next two weeks, she'll be sculpting John Lennon, Justin Bieber, Prince and Amy Winehouse, before heading to Weston to create a likeness of Charlie Chaplin.

The Weston festival has been running since 2006, when there was just one sculpture. Now there are 30 sculptures using 4,000 tonnes of sand. In Brighton - where the sand festival is making its debut this year - there are 20 sculptures, using 2,000 tonnes of sand.

Although Nicola is yet to carve her artworks, due to the demands of organising the events, both festivals are up and running, and boast a fantastic array of sculptures created by artists from across the globe.

In Weston, the festival takes the theme of Hollywood. The first thing you see is a sculpture of paparazzi, with flashlights built into it, so you get papped as you come in, says Nicola. Then there's a giant King Kong.

The festival includes sculptures dedicated to Harry Potter, Star Wars, Life of Pi and Rocky, as well as children's favourites Toy Story, Up and Ice Age.

In Brighton, the theme is music and we take you on a journey through time, starting with Beethoven and Mozart, and ending up with an X Factor sculpture.

There are also some Brightonesque'' touches - including tributes to the movie Quadrophenia, which was filmed in the town, and Abba, who won the Eurovision Song Contest there.

When it comes to contests, Nicola is no stranger to winning prizes. Her talents have been recognised at competitions across the globe, including the World Championship of Sand Sculpting. In 2007, she achieved a gold medal in the doubles division and a silver in the team challenge and, in 2010, she was a member of the gold medal winning all-female team, The Machas.

Last year, Nicola was selected to represent the UK in the European Sculpting Championships in Holland, although she nearly missed out on the opportunity, due to vandalism at the Weston site.

I went to Weston to say goodbye and found that we'd had vandals in. They'd beheaded 15 sculptures, including the Queen. Me and Alec were in tears. I couldn't just run off and compete in the championships.

However, after working tirelessly for two days and nights to repair the sculptures, Nicola joined the event three days late - and still managed to earn the silver medal.

They've invited me back this year so, all being well, I'll be able to go from the start, adds Nicola, who has wowed visitors with her sculptures at Leicester's Summer Sundae and Glastonbury festival.

Her pieces are testament to her artistic abilities, which extend to ice sculpting, painting, drawing and performing arts.

Nicola's face may be familiar to readers with kids, as she also presented Deadly Art, the BBC children's art show created as a spin- off from the popular Deadly 60 programme. There aren't any more series of Deadly Art planned, but Nicola says there are other things in the pipeline so we may well see her grace our screens again.

For the time being, it's sand that's at the forefront of Nicola's mind, as she focuses on the Weston and Brighton festivals. We do school workshops, guided tours and we're having live music from local musicians in Brighton. We also add in more sculptures during the events, to give people a reason to come back.

Although she spends most of her time arranging the events, there's no doubt that after seven years, Nicola is still passionate about creating her magnificent sculptures.

I'd forgotten how much I enjoy sculpting as I'd buried my head in the organising, but then yesterday, I had to rebuild Elvis as he'd fallen down. I put my tool in the sand and I loved it. The sun was shining, I had my headphones on. It was brilliant. ? .M: Both festivals are on until the end of September. For more information, see:

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