The art of pebble painting in Morecambe and Radcliffe

A Kindness Rock

A Kindness Rock - Credit: Archant

Stone me! The resort has embraced the growing craze of decorating pebbles for others to find, as Andy Greeves reports

A Design a Shrimp Pebble entry for the Morecambe Football Club competition

A Design a Shrimp Pebble entry for the Morecambe Football Club competition - Credit: Archant

If you take a stroll along the Lancashire coastline or walk through one of the county’s parks this year, there’s a good chance you may come across a decorated stone or two on your travels.

The so-called ‘Kindness Rocks’ craze is continuing to grow in popularity as those who find the colourful rocks take to social media in their droves to post images of their discoveries.

Many credit American life-coach Megan Murphy as the pioneer of this pebble-painting craze. Shortly after returning home to the United States from India in spring 2015, Megan started daubing rocks with inspirational messages and leaving them for people to find in her home town of Barnstable, Massachusetts.

This became known as the ‘Kindness Rocks Project’, with her designs incorporating the social media tag #TheKindnessRocksProject. Today, stones carrying that hashtag have been found in all seven world continents, with around 20,000 individuals creating Kindness Rocks across the globe.

Inspired both by Kindness Rocks and the social aspects of the augmented reality game Pokémon Go, Morecambe’s Jacky Burns launched ‘Pebbleart’ last summer.

‘I loved the way Pokémon Go got people out in the fresh air and talking to one another,’ says Jacky. ‘As much as I liked the game, it became apparent to me that it wasn’t inclusive.

‘Only people with relatively high-end phones can take part and many youngsters and seniors can only be spectators. I wanted to catch the excitement of Pokémon Go but make it useable for all.

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‘The ethos of Pebbleart is to spread a little kindness. It is about enjoying the outdoors and having fun. It also teaches valuable lessons in giving and receiving and encourages creativity and doing things together as a family. There are no age restrictions and to prove that, we have nursing homes actively participating alongside nurseries. It’s not dictated by the weather either – when it’s nice you can hunt and place pebbles and when it’s horrid you can stay at home and create. It’s ideal for this country and its unpredictable weather!’

Jacky regularly places up to 60 painted pebbles between Grosvenor Road and the climbing wall on the promenade in Morecambe for residents and visitors to her home town to find.

‘It is always exciting watching the reactions of people looking out for the pebbles, taking photos of them and posting them online,’ smiles Jacky, who has decorated over 1,000 stones to date.

Such is the popularity of Pebbleart – which had over 8,000 Facebook members just a month after its creation – Jacky now regularly receives requests from individuals to start their own groups under the ‘Pebbleart’ prefix. As a result, Pebbleart now has subgroups in Bolton, Bury, Lancaster and Warrington among others.

The painted rocks craze has spread to organisations too. Jacky has been invited to put on workshops by Lancashire Constabulary while a host of Morecambe cafes – including Kerry’s Café – offered prizes to people who returned their own specially designed Pebbleart stones. Even Morecambe Football Club got in on the action, running a ‘Design a Shrimp Pebble’ (in homage to team’s nickname) competition with Jacky back in the summer.

In Radcliffe, a community wellbeing project called ‘Radcliffe Rocks’ (follow @FindingBoris on Twitter or search #RadcliffeRocks) has been set-up, with regular workshops taking place at Wellspring House.

Pebbles are decorated in the classes with positive and inspiring designs and messages, with some of them placed in nearby Coronation Park for others to find.

‘Earlier this year I discovered Redfolio, who are community artists who do creative projects to engage people who might otherwise be socially isolated,’ explains Karen Nolan, who is the Centre Leader at Wellspring House’s .

‘Redfolio led two workshops to celebrate Mental Health Awareness Week, working with participants to create vertical books, which were displayed at Radcliffe Library.

‘The feedback from those first two workshops was great and few people were interested in continuing to meet.

‘This led to the formation of the Art and Minds Social Group, which includes Radcliffe Rocks. Research shows that engaging in a creative activity can relieve stress and have a positive impact on mental health. Art is a great way to relax, express ideas and feelings and connect with others.’

Other pebble painting groups in Lancashire include an anonymous artist or artists at work in Cleveleys, where brightly colours pebbles have regularly appearing on Rossall Beach since 2015.