Drop in the Ocean is a walking performance in concentric circles of progressively increasing diameter around a central point of water – a well, reservoir, spring, church font, pond, river, puddle – and/or an accompanying installation in a town, city or village. The walking performer wears a yoke and buckets, carrying water as a medium to invite, provoke or encourage encounters with others, and encounters with water.

The first performance of Drop in the Ocean took place from 14th – 20th October 2013 around an installation at All Saints Church and Cafe, Hereford; the second from 29th April – 4th May 2015 around an installation at Oriel Nwy | Gas Gallery, Aberystwyth.

For each of the 6 days, Jess walks a full circle – diameter widening each day – around the installation. She was carries water in two metal buckets suspended from an antique milkmaid’s yoke. It’s quite noisy:

The yoke is heavier and less comfortable than she assumed it might be. But she has her dog’s old puppy bed between her neck and the yoke as padding. (It makes her look like Henry VIII, she thinks; she wonders at times if she should really have washed it first.)

The left bucket contains submerged stones, the right bucket begins the day containing only water. If people approach her, smile, heckle, stop and look quizzical, ask a question, make a comment or otherwise invite an interaction, she offers them to make a wish.

In Hereford it went something like this:

I invite you to take a stone from this bucket [gestures left]
(You might want to roll up your sleeve.)
And hold it in your hand.
(For at least 30 seconds.)
As you hold it, I invite you to think of
It might be…
Your favourite memory of water.
A difficult memory of water.
(If you don’t like it very much)
The last time you used water.

It might be…
The sound of the sea.
A walk along the Wye.
A walk along the Lugg.
The rain on your hood.

The water in your boot.
The wet hand that you have from picking out your pebble.

And when you have let those watery thoughts…

Percolate through
Trickle down
Flow past
Wash over you

I invite you to make a wish.

It might be
A wish for water.
Or it might be a wish for anything that you like.
And when you are ready,
I invite you to place your wish and your stone in this bucket [gestures right]

Thank you very much [smiles]

In Aberystwyth it became more like this:

All you have to do is take a stone from the water in this bucket [gestures left]
And hold it in your hand.
(For at least 30 seconds.)
As you hold it, I’ll invite you to think of six things about water,
before you make a wish.

[Participant nods, bends down, reaches in to left bucket to choose stone; shakes surplus water off; we restore eye contact…]

Now, as you hold the stone in your wet hand
I ask you to think about these six things… (and you don’t  have to tell me what you’re thinking about, but equally you can if you’d like)

I invite you think about:
your first memory of water
your favourite memory of water [pause]
an alarming memory of water (if you have one) [pause]
your last encounter with water today (not including the bucket) [pause]
the last time you heard water mentioned on the news [pause]
and finally, your favourite sound of water and how it makes you feel[pause]

And now, as you hold those thoughts together in your mind as you hold the stone in your wet hand…as you let them


I invite you to make your wish.

And when you’re ready, I invite you to place your stone and your wish in the water of this bucket.

[Participant reaches forward to right bucket; releasing stone gently into the water, or dropping it in with a splash]

Thank you very much.

Afterwards, in exchange for the wish, she then gives the wisher a hand-stamped card. There is a web address, with details of the installation. But [she adds]:

You might prefer to leave this as a mysterious encounter.

Usually, she finds herself having to reassure people: It is completely free. She isn’t trying to advertise anything. She isn’t collecting for charity. And (once, to a fisherman on the banks of the Wye) no, it isn’t part of You’ve Been Framed.

The ‘circles’ follow streets, coastal paths and rights of way; the routes dictated by water bodies and river crossings. They aren’t very circular in the purist aesthetic sense. (But, as Mads said to her, it should be ‘more about the sense of walking in a circle’. So that’s OK, then.) For example, by day two in Hereford, it was already apparent that, it would not be possible to walk in large, complete circles around a city bisected by a river. (There weren’t enough river crossings.) So over the remaining days she walked a half circle north, south, north again and then east. In Aberystwyth on the west coast of Mid-Wales, she had to walk half circles or fall into the sea (she hasn’t yet worked out how to walk on water).

In the day, she walks and draws circles on the ground with her feet.
In the evening, she walks back to the installation and draws circles onto the map with her pen.

And writes from memory the encounters with people, water or places she had throughout the day. These are pinned onto the map in the place where they happened. Images of the tags recording some of the encounters each day are available in the gallery (there is one for each performance).