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Michelle Akerley sand drawing outline

On Friday we went down to Filey beach in Yorkshire to do some filming for a new Children’s BBC (CBBC) program called ‘Totally Rubbish’ which is all about recycled art.  And sand drawing is of course the ultimate in recycling as we recycle our canvas every time the tide comes back in to wipe our work away.

the sketch of the CBBC Totally rubbish sand drawing

The presenters of the show are Nigel Clarke and Michelle Akerley and they were to help us make some of the drawing.  What they didn’t know was that the picture was a portrait of them.  This is possible with sand drawings as the pictures are so big and distorted by anamorphosis that when you are on the ground it is difficult to tell what it is (anamorphosis is the perspective illusion that allows images to be viewed from an oblique angle).

Because this was TV our budget was practically enough to buy a single cappuccino and so the high life of hotels and belly dancers in fancy restaurants was a thing of the past.  Our early start of 7am meant that we had to stay over so I opted to condemn us to a night of camping on an exposed hill that must be the windiest place in the whole of Yorkshire.  Myself and Tom Bolland battled against the gales to erect a giant family tent that did not want to go up and unnerved us with the sound of snapping poles breaking in the wind.  In the end we were victorious even though it was leaning precariously to one side.

Afterwards Tom and I sat high on the cliff watching the full moon pass over the night sky whilst it reflected in the wind blown sea of Filey Bay.  The rest of the crew eventually turned up stumbling in the dark to find us, I kindly shined my torch so that they could see where we were and not walk off the cliff face into the precipice below; what a shame that would have been.  The A-Team was comprised of Jo Billingsley, Yadgar Ali, old faithful Andy Moss, Tom Bolland and myself Jamie Wardley.  The Sandinyoureye team was now complete and ready to go.

“Looks like we’re going to get a good sleep tonight.”

Unfortunately the north-westerly wind had something to say about this.  As we all settled for sleeping we realised that we were a little unprepared for a cold night in a tent on an exposed hill and we all opted for getting into our sleeping bags fully clothed.  Yadgar who is originally from the warmer climate of Iraq said “I have never slept in my socks before”.  I am happy to testify that Sand In Your Eye is dedicated to giving people new experiences.  I think for some only getting an hour sleep because the tent sounded like it was going to lift off at any moment in the gale was another.

By 6am the next morning we were bright eyed and bushy tailed after a bowl of muesli and a croissant.  The wind had abated and we were greeted by the warmth of a glowing sun and a calm day.

CBBC’s new art show Totally Rubbish Crew with Jamie

We hit the beach by 7am and promptly met our co-conspirators from the CBBC production company that call themselves Dot to Dot.  I met with the director Marcus Harben who is a lovely chap with red hair and a mild completion like myself.  We had already had many chats over the phone about the complexities of sand drawing and how the beach has it’s little quirks that likes to keep us all on our toes.  There are so many variables that mean that drawing in the sand should be impossible and that’s why we like it.  With Marcus was Matt the camera man, a soundman with big arms to hold the boom, and Andy who was very nice but I’m not sure what his job was.  There were also the presenters Michelle and Nigel and our Sand In Your Eye favourite Dan because he supplied us all with coffees even though he did get the order totally wrong.

Drawing on the beach for CBBC’s Totally Tubbish

For an hour we in the Sand In Your Eye team scuttled about the beach setting up, this was after I had to carry the whole crew  on my back over a pool of water at the bottom of the steps because I was the only one who had brought wellingtons.  Once we were ready to draw, Marcus’s master plan for the shoot began to unravel.  I have to say that I was very impressed by his team’s relaxed and professional demeanour even under the pressure of the incoming tide.  The presenters Michelle and Nigel are fantastic to work with as they are just as natural and chipper off camera as they are on it.  I was to play a bigger part in the show than I anticipated and their banter and sheer enjoyment of their job made my role much easier to handle.  We were pretty much three kids playing around on the beach with rakes.  Marcus played the part of the School Master asking us to settle before each shot as we were a little giddy.  Nigel and Michelle are also very talented.  Nigel’s raking action is simply style, the lad dances across the sand making dramatic strokes and he even points his little finger whilst he’s doing it.  This was reflected by Michelle’s dry Lancastrian humour and down to earth ‘let’s get on with it’ attitude.  These two make a great double act and I think their show ‘Totally Rubbish’ will be very successful.

The Sand In Your Eye team comprised of Thomas Bolland, Jo Billingsley, Yadgar Ali, Andy moss and Jamie Wardley, with presenters Nigel Clarke, Michelle Akerley and director Marcus Harben

All day Michelle and Nigel stayed on the beach, filming and helping us out here and there with a bit of drawing and raking.  I was with them much of the time but the rest of my team didn’t miss me.  They were very comfortable doing the drawing by themselves and I could hear them giggling away in the background at my attempt at Hollywood. As the hours waned Marcus’s fare skin gradually turned the colour of a Lobster and as the sea began to come back in Nigel shouted “The tide’s coming in guys, you’d better hurry up!”

Michelle Akerley and Nigel Clarke overseeing the finishing touches of the Sand In Your Eye team

To their credit Nigel and Michelle never looked at the drawing or tried to guess what it was until I finally gave them permission to walk up the stairs and have a look.  If you see the show in January you will see that they were totally amazed to see a characterture of themselves drawn in the sand driving a Cadillac, and then a few moments later to see it been washed away by the sea.  But then that is recycling for you, no paper wasted here!


Nigel Clarke and Michelle Akerley seeing their sand drawing for the first time The Nigel Clarke and Michelle Akerley sand drawing for CBBC Totally Rubbish



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