The Salty Forest – Port Pirie Winter Festival 2023

The Port Pirie SALA Winter Festival returned for its second year in 2023 with a weekend event showcasing arts, culture, music, food and entertainment.  The main event was held at Memorial Park on Saturday 5 August 2023 from 11am – 9pm and hosted a range of community focused entertainment and interactive activities, including some exciting creative and educational workshops that resulted in a beautiful community made installation at the Memorial Park Rotunda on the 4th and 5th of August.

The immersive installation enabled visitors of all ages to get up close and personal with a unique cluster of South Australian tidal estuaries and salty mud flats where dense Mangrove forests grow. Recognised for lush biodiversity, bird habitats and fish hatcheries, mangroves can be difficult for humans to reach and appreciate fully.

Illuminart are thrilled to be able to honour the rich biodiversity of this environment with its beautiful squelchy mud, fascinating creatures and wild textures. Our Salty Forest guides have been amazing with a plethora of fascinating details about the extraordinary ecology to be found in this unique place between the land and water.

This work was predominantly created on and about the lands of the Nukunu people.  Along with Port Pirie Regional Council, we would like to acknowledge the Nukunu Wapma Thura Native Title Corporation and Nukunu elders, who supported the project with cultural words, and young delegate April Wilson, who provided narration that featured as the introduction.  Thanks also to Uncle Lindsay Thomas, who opened the event with a cultural Welcome to Country.


Experience The Salty Forest animation every night through August in the heart of Port Pirie!
Where: Port Pirie City Park Projection
When: 6.30pm – 10.30pm throughout August 2023.
Content includes ‘Constellation’ and ‘Many Hands’ and loops several times during the evening.

Scroll down to listen to ABC interviews about the project and community participation below at “In the Media”.

The project has been created by Georgia Northcott, Kristen Messenger and Susanne Wegener, interweaving artwork by community members and supported by the illuminart team to install and present.


About the Project leaders:


‘Bugs and Slugs’ science educator Kristen Messenger specialises in creative ecology for children and families. Kristen ran the St Kilda Mangrove Trail for 18 years and is an experienced educator, including decades of children’s holiday programs and workshops from the Fringe to the Festival Centre. You may also know her as the Bug Lady on the ABC!


Georgia is a local artist based in the Mid North, having grown up in the town she found her path to working in the creative industries through her chronic health diagnosis as a teenager. As a neurodivergent artist, she spends her time exploring a variety of mediums, mixing acrylics one day and creating digital illustrations the next. Not one to be limited in her creative endeavours, Georgia works as a florist alongside running her art and design business from her Port Pirie studio.  Georgia is an amazing example of how regional arts projects can create meaningful employment and enhancement of relevant skills for locals.


This project was developed with Port Pirie Regional Council and Festivals Australia as part of the 2023 SALA Winterfest.

  • In the lead up to the Winter Festival the community was invited to join the People’s Mangrove Forest and discover this incredible ecosystem in detail with our guides! Though the activities have now passed you can read about them here and see how they contributed to the overall Salty Forest project! Creative science educator Kristen Messenger and local artist Georgia Northcott gave guests a variety of options:

    • A journey of discovery through an online Mangrove Forum with a panel of experts. Watch the discussion here!
    • A poll so you could ask questions and tell us what you think about the mangroves and intertidal habitats.
    • A selection of free two hour hands-on arts and crafts workshops using recovered resources, with contributions transformed into a beautiful, tactile, immersive installation displayed at the Rotunda lantern during the Port Pirie Winter Festival! Participants chose from ‘Foil Fish’ or ‘Paint and Sip’ sessions!
    • A walk and talk ‘Mangrove Discovery Session’ where complex questions about this extraordinary ecosystem were answered! Questions were able to be submitted online before the event.
    • At the Port Pirie Winter Festival visitors could add colour and detail to the collaborative Mangrove Scroll.


    Mangrove Discovery Walk:
    Did you know that South Australia is home to some of the largest stands of temperate mangroves in the world? You might think mangroves smell but they play a really important role in protecting and sheltering the coast. They are also an important fish nursery and a haven for birds and wildlife. You might think you know all about mangroves but what you don’t will blow your mind!
    Join a walk and talk Mangrove Discovery Session at Solomontown and ask questions about the extraordinary sights and smells that are such a hot topic! You can submit your questions online before the event. If you can’t attend the discovery session, you can still submit your questions using our online form or head to our Facebook page and contribute your questions and comments to the Salty Forest socials post! We will endeavour to answer all questions and they will be added to our website as a knowledge space connected to the Salty Forest project, dedicated to this unique ecosystem.

    DATE : Friday 21st July 2023
    TIME : 2pm – 3.30pm
    COST : FREE, Registration essential through Eventbrite
    OPTIONAL: Submit your questions online here, you will find a range of ideas and a space to submit your own!


    Foil Fish Art Ecology Workshops:
    Join ecologist and artist Kris Messenger and local artist Georgia Northcott to learn about and then recreate the hidden world of the mangrove forest. We will use recovered resources and found objects to create a community driven installation that will support the People’s Mangrove Forest.

    The Salty Forest is filled with hidden wonders and many mysteries will be revealed to you. The session commences with a short talk and share, then all hands on deck to create stunning “Foil Fish”, which can be embossed and coloured. You may even have time to write a message on your fish about what mangroves mean to you! Your artwork will then be suspended within the Memorial Park Rotunda during Port Pirie’s Winterfest 2023. Your contributions will also become a colourful permanent feature of Port Pirie’s City Park Projection!

    DATE: Choose between Friday 21 and Sat 22 July 2023
    TIME: 11am – 1pm
    AGE: Children 5+
    COST: FREE, Registration essential through Eventbrite


    Online Expert Panel:
    The Salty Forest goes online with a group of experts in a discussion forum. Be a part of the journey of discovery filled with the hidden wonders, mysteries and impacts of this unique habitat.  Submit thoughts and questions online before the session (Poll now closed). Listen to the interview here.
    DATE: 29TH July
    TIME: 5PM
    Your Salty Forest panel includes science educator and ecologist Kristen Messenger from Bugs and Slugs, Matt Waller from Cutty’s Boat Tours, Anthony North from local retreat Still Earth and Cindi Drennan from illuminart.

    These experts go to amazing depths to enhance our knowledge. Here is a past interview we did with another expert, Brittany Williams, about Oysters and Shrimp for Constellation in 2023.


    Paint and Sip Workshop (Adults only):
    Artist or not, everyone loves a night out! Join local artist and creative, G, from Georgia Ellie Art and Design to sip, laugh, and even learn a little about our local ecosystem. Explore your creative talents (or embrace your lack of!) in our step by step art class with a ‘Salty’ theme! We’ll bring your designs to life at Port Pirie’s Winterfest as part of the ‘People’s Mangrove Forest’.

    DATE: 29th July
    TIME: 6.45pm-9.15pm
    VENUE: Still Earth Retreat, Warnertown
    COST: FREE, registration essential through Eventbrite
    AGE: 18+
    Light Nibbles supplied
    BYO Alcohol
    NUMBERS LIMITED to 20 people


    Mangrove Scroll:
    When you visit the Port Pirie Winter Festival, come and spend some time in the Art Workshop area.  Among the many fun activities to try, you can also help to paint and colour a large scrolling mangrove scene, that will be animated and turned into a digital display.

    DATE : Saturday 5th August
    TIME : Drop in between 11am and 5pm
    VENUE: Art and Craft Tent, Winter Festival at Port Pirie Memorial Park
    COST : FREE, no registration required


  • Workshop Venues
    Uniting Country SA Parham Centre
    Still Earth Retreat

    Community Contributions
    Hayley Tattoli
    Mark Hobbs
    Kellie St. John-Sweeting
    Maelie Williams
    Helen Cox
    Kane Robert St
    Jason Harrald
    Isaiah Caputo
    Kai Clarke
    Dominique Fasciano
    Fiona Stracke
    Joel Wilton
    Travis White
    Brielle Williams
    Renee Williams
    Amity Williams
    Martin Rigg
    Rachel Osborn
    Loz Richens
    Kellie St. John-Sweeting
    C Swan
    M Burger
    Larissa Mackrill
    Alice Hutchison
    Emma N
    Michelle Mummery
    Kristin Van Keulen
    Shae Morrison
    Beth Richardson
    Svetlana Bashtetskaya
    heARTS by KLF
    Barbara Murphy

    This project was developed as part of the 2023 SALA Winter Festival with Port Pirie Regional Council and Festivals Australia as is brought to you by illuminart stories in light.