Special Sand Art Clock Installation Drives Home NIPANC’s Public Awareness Message

#TimeMatters when it comes to surviving Pancreatic Cancer


For Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month, NIPANC commissioned one of Ireland’s top sand artists to drive home its public awareness message #TimeMatters when it comes to understanding the symptoms of the disease and seeking early diagnosis and treatment.


Sean Corcoran, of The Art Hand from Waterford was asked to create a sand art installation that would draw attention to the importance of understanding the symptoms of the illness and the urgent need for people to attend their GP.


The sand art devised for World Pancreatic Cancer Day #WPCD on Thursday, November 17th was created and filmed in October on Downhill Beach on the North Coast using drone cameras to capture the dramatic image of a huge clock accompanied by the #TimeMatters campaign slogan.

Pupils from Dominican College, Portstewart assisted the sand art team as well as Ellie Irvine (16), one of a number of young people taking part in NIPANC’s campaign, who lost a parent to pancreatic cancer. They are sharing their stories so other families don’t have to go through the trauma they have.


Using timelapse and sound effects, the final sand art impression is one of a clock ticking and moving through time. There is a sense of urgency in its creation; to reflect the immediate need to diagnose and treat this deadly disease, referred to by medics as a silent killer.


It is hoped the sand art will capture the public imagination and may ultimately save lives. So far it has received over 2.5k views.


The numbers of people being diagnosed with the disease in NI is increasing with approximately 270 people affected each year. With a five-year survival rate in single digits pancreatic cancer is one of the world’s deadliest.


Only 1% of those diagnosed will reach ten-year survival. NI has one of the worst survival rates in the world ranking 32 out of 36 countries. Three out of five patients could have surgery to cure their pancreatic cancer but were diagnosed too late.


Symptoms of the disease include jaundice, upper abdominal pain radiating to the mid-back, itchy skin, unexplained weight loss, pain on eating, indigestion, diabetes, depression, fatigue, changes to taste and toilet habits, pale and smelly stools.

Sean Corcoran said: “This is one of the largest sand art installations we have ever done, particularly in the lettering. The size and scale of it was deliberate. We want people to sit up and take notice, not to shy away from this disease but to face it head on by understanding the symptoms and seeking immediate medical attention. It is key to survival. We also wanted to convey the urgency of time. It was an important, lifesaving project to work on.”


Chairperson of NIPANC, Ivan McMinn MBE, is a pancreatic cancer survivor. He is among only 1% of those diagnosed with the disease that survives past ten years. He said: “I would like to thank all the young people who have taken part in this year’s campaign, those who have shared their stories and the pupils of Dominican College in Portstewart who helped bring this wonderful sand art into being. You are saving lives.”


“There can never be enough public awareness around this disease so thank you to each, and every one of the impressive students who took time out from your lessons at Dominican College in Portstewart to help us create the #TimeMatters sand art, learn more about the illness and support our pancreatic cancer awareness campaign.

“We pay tribute to Dominican College, to you Eva Austin, Keirsha Booth, Lydia Quigley, Lucy Kearney, Eirean Hickey, Amelie Holden, Imogen Warke, Noah Douglas, Dara Hughes, Carter Lamont, Calum McKergan and Thomas Campbell. To the fantastic Year Head Miss Eimear Anderson, Teaching Assistant Johanne Gaile and Senior Teacher, Mr Kevin Ramsay.


He added: “New research, treatments and technologies are on the horizon for pancreatic cancer but for now the best way of improving survival is for people to familiarise themselves with the symptoms and go to their GP especially if they are experiencing persistent symptoms. It’s not an easy illness to diagnose.”

NIPANC has carried forward its #TimeMatters theme through from its first public awareness campaign last year where it used imagery of NI’s iconic clocks, such as at Belfast City Hall, the famous Albert and Belfast Telegraph Clocks, the QUB Quadrangle Clock and Ormeau Bakery Clock among others as a symbol of the urgent need for early detection, diagnosis and treatment.


Ivan added: “As part of this campaign we are calling for necessary priority to be given to early diagnosis, for more research into the development of new and innovative treatments and improved support for patients and families affected by the disease.

“We are also grateful to Speed Motion Films for the beautiful production of this film and all the resources and expertise that went into making it.


Professor Mark Taylor, NI Director of the Royal College of Surgeons and a Board Member of NIPANC said: “Pancreatic Cancer is often termed the ‘silent killer’ as it often presents at a stage in which curative surgery is not possible. The more conversations and attention drawn to it the better both in terms of early symptom recognition and sharing of best practice.


“The #TimeMatters campaign using this breathtaking piece of sand art is a great visual way to get people talking and to encourage an improved understanding of pancreatic cancer. We, as surgeons and clinicians, must continue to strive to gain a better understanding of the biology of this cancer and seek new therapies to improve the outcome for our patients. I want this to be a message of hope that cure is possible but requires early symptom recognition, timely surgical and oncological interventions, and every effort to continue to fund essential research in this silent killer.”


Read more about the symptoms of pancreatic cancer HERE

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