Due to be demolished, ‘The Shed’ at Mona Vale Beach has been farewelled with a unique piece of street art.

With the reconstruction of Mona Vale Surf Life Saving Club and the associated amenities block about to commence, renowned local artist Vicki Ratcliff decided to farewell the amenities block at Mona Vale Beach known as The Shed with a guerrilla art installation last Wednesday (21 April).

Her work depicts the Buckettes, an informal group of female swimmers who meet daily at The Shed for a morning swim. According to Ms Ratcliff, the female swimmer is an amalgam of all the women who swim, and the community that has been created.

The Buckettes gather after signing The Shed

Vicki Ratcliff

Vicki Ratcliff

“I swim down here every day during the week and have gotten to know an amazing group of women that do the same thing. The Shed is not just a change shed but a real place of meeting, of community, of sharing, of laughter, of singing, of swapping clothes and telling stories. It’s a meeting place, the centre of the swimming group.

“When I knew it was coming down and the signs went up, I thought it was now or never to commemorate it. Even though we’ll get another one, this one has that history. I wanted to put something on it that says something how I feel about this group of people and this place,” said Ms Ratcliff.

The Shed - an amenities block at Mona Vale Beach

Street art is a departure from her usual work, but Ms Ratcliff said the importance of The Shed as a meeting place needed to be recognised before the demolition, and she was not concerned at the temporary nature of the work.

“I’m not worried about the demolition. It’s like with my paintings when I sell them, I say goodbye to them. Knowing the building was coming down I didn’t think anybody would mind as long as I wasn’t doing anything offensive.

“Last Wednesday I waited for all the Buckettes to leave and go home, I came back about 9.15am and painted it so they would find it the next morning.

“There were a lot of Council people here because they had trucks putting a pole up. The guy I spoke with said ‘Fantastic!’ once he realised I wasn’t doing anything naughty on the wall,” chuckled Ms Ratcliff.

Members of the Buckettes signing the artwork at The Shed

The reaction from the Buckettes and other beach goers has been overwhelmingly positive to the surprise artwork, with members of the swim group signing their name on the wall yesterday morning (Tuesday, 27 April).

Rob Strevens

Rob Strevens

According to Buckettes member Rob Strevens, the swim group has supported her through recent difficulties while she has been unable to swim.

“We have a great sense of belonging. It’s a different group than I’ve ever been in before. It’s incredibly supportive. It doesn’t matter whether you wear makeup or not, or what you own, it’s how we can help each other. I have not been very well lately and the group were all texting me and phoning me to see when I’ll be back,” said Ms Strevens.

Gail Gosling

Gail Gosling

Fellow Buckettes member Gail Gosling agreed, “It’s been wonderful, I’ve only been here 11 years, some have been here a lot longer than I have. It’s a wonderful eclectic group.”

Asked what she will miss most about the old Shed, Ms Ratcliff said the new building will be oriented differently and built with different materials.

“The Shed is the place we dump our gear, then we go for a swim and come back and have a shower and laugh and talk. The wall I did the mural on faces due north, it is the warmest place.

“When you’re really cold and you come out of the water, you get the heat off that wall. Often there’ll be a whole line of people standing there warming themselves up. I don’t think the new block is going to be facing that way, so we won’t have that beautiful north facing sunny heat resonating off the wall, which is a bit of a shame,” said Ms Ratcliff.

Mona Vale Beach amenities block

The loss of a building that holds many memories for the group is emotional for the Buckettes but Ms Ratcliff said the friendships that connect the group will endure.

“Coming down here and swimming in the morning, it’s so much more than having a swim, it is these people. In any other situation we probably wouldn’t have all bonded as friends but we are drawn together because of the ocean and the pool. I found my tribe when I found this group of women. They are very special to me.

“Through all the things you go through in life, they are there for you. There’s an amazing amount of support for each other. I am quite emotional about them. The Shed is very special. It is a meeting place,” said Ms Ratcliff.

Last year the Buckettes were the subject of an award-winning short documentary film called ‘Sea Birds’ (video below) by film makers PeopleWho and Coney Productions.

Images: Northern Beaches Advocate, Northern Beaches Council
Video: PeopleWho & Coney Productions