All across the sleepy seaside town of Portaferry excited children and surprised adults have been finding pebbles painted with uplifting designs and colours, optimistic messages - ‘Be your own kind of beautiful’; ‘Just when the caterpillar thought her life was over, she began to fly’; ‘Do not search for happiness - create it!’; ‘The dreams that you dare to dream really do come true’; ‘We are all broken, that’s how the light gets in’ - cartoon characters, vivdly drawn animals, pieces of pithy wisdom - ‘Time is precious, don’t waste it’; ‘Wherever you are, be all there’; ‘Everyday may not be good, but there is good in everyday’; ‘Appreciate the little things - there are so many’ - and requests to visit the town’s many local attractions.
The ‘Portaferry Rocks’ campaign - with stones deftly and brightly painted depicting everything from bumble bees, butterflies, mermaids, unicorns, rainbows, pirates, parrots, Disney heroes and heroines, a motley crue of superhero characters including Star Wars’ big hitters, the Muppets, Snoopy the dog, Spongebob Squarepants, Smurfs, boats, unusual patterns and motifs to messages urging vistors to take a trip to the local sailing club or the popular Sails and Sounds festival held in the area each summer - was started anonymously and the woman behind it couldn’t be more delighted with how the town has become excited and uplifted by the search for these colourful stones hidden across the area - along the shore, in parks, in bushes, in all kinds of unexpected places, all over.
The unique project spreading good vibes and positivity was started a year ago by a local woman who wishes to remain anonymous but exclusively revealed to the News Letter that she “just wanted to do some good, spread some smiles. So end of last year I started painting some stones and dropping them.
“Some are about mental health, some kids’ characters. I paint them and gift them to charities for walks. I leave them hidden somewhere and tell the charities where they are and they go collect them.”
The anonymous artist has revealed that it was her own personal struggles with anxiety and depression that put her on the path to this creativity, which has helped boost her mood immensely and resulted in her being well enough to come off her medication and sleep more easily; doing good has made her feel good too.
“I have suffered with some mental health issues, mostly bad anxiety and depression for years,” she said. “That’s why I couldn’t cope with the direct attention. But this way I am helping without being directly known. The Facebook page (‘Portaferry Rocks’) enables everyone to see the stones, and charities or events contact me through it.
“I am just a one woman band. But the painting is really helping me, I am off all my tablets and sleeping better than I have done in a lifetime. It’s honestly like therapy.
“I do little drop offs myself, all stealthy and hide them in the community too to encourage families to go out and about together for a walk and quality time.
“It has been so well received by my community that it has blown me away.
“At the beginning I thought they’d all think the idea daft. But they are embracing it.
“I just wanted to give to the community, it’s a brilliant place and everyone is so friendly, sometimes we don’t appreciate what and who is around us.
“I was thinking one night about painting inspirational messages on stones, just simple things like, ‘peace’, ‘breathe’, etc. I mentioned it to family who said they thought it was a lovely idea and to do it.
“I made them all swear not to let on it was me. I began leaving them in the local area and people where lifting them up so then I started the little (Facebook) page and it grew from there.”
The response has encouraged the project to grow and more and more people in Portaferry have been delighted to find a little message or image on a stone that has given them a much-needed lift or an optimistic thought for the day; charities have availed of the rocks for fundraising events to boost team morale; and children have been entranced by the project too.
Plus local businesses have got on board so if you find a rock saying ‘Captain Jack’s’ you get a freebie from the local chippy; rocks emblazoned with ‘Morelli’s’ mean free ice-cream and rocks with the local library, sailing club or local pharmacy named on them mean you get a free goodie bag in the respective outlets.
The Facebook page continues to soar in popularity, with recipients espousing their delight at each joyful, unexpected find and children grinning from ear to ear while showing off their treasured rainbow-coloured stones.
“It’s been so lovely,” said our anonymous artist. “People have been so kind. Some have contacted the page privately to say their wife found one and she needed the words. Even today a lady who lost two sons posted a photo of her rainbow baby boy and her holding a rainbow rock they found today.
“It’s beautiful. The messages from people encourage me to paint more. Now it’s events and charity walks too, its fantastic.”
For more information on Portaferry Rocks see Facebook page or can you find your own stone in the area ?
in and around Portaferry.