The headpiece of Scotland’s largest community mosaic art project will be unveiled this week (March 1, 2024)  in North Glasgow.

The Kelpies’ cousin, The Beithir, slithered into the city in September 2023, marking a major milestone in Scottish Canals’ Stockingfield Bridge community artwork project.

The Beithir, a 121-metre mythical serpent in Scottish folklore, now forms the centrepiece of one of 22 artworks commissioned by Scottish Canals for the parkland that surrounds the new active travel bridge.

The head, which stretches three metres wide, by two metres high, and four metres long, has been covered in ferro cement and given a complete mosaic finish and up until this week has been completed covered up while the works were taking place.

Members of the public are encouraged to come to the site on Friday, March 1st, to see The Beithir come alive from 5.30pm-7pm with art, music, and more.

The Beithir or “Bella and the seven winds” is an artwork by Scottish artist Nichol Wheatley.

Commissioned by Scottish Canals the Beithir, in folklore, is one of the fuath, a family of Scottish mythological creatures which include the Kelpies in Falkirk. The Beithir is a “lightening serpent” and is most often seen in summer evenings during storms. This version of the Beithir, as imagined by Nichol Wheatley, has seven coloured winds that wind along her body and she carries a world egg in her mouth.

The next stage Nichol will be collaborating with Louise Nolan and Ruth Impey from Make It Glasgow, a local community interest company of the Beithir scales project. This project will look to make the scales that will decorate the entire length of the Beithir. These three artists are looking to use the making of the Beithir to make real change in northwest Glasgow.

This project will take five years and looks to involve up to 30,000 people.

Nichol explained: “The purpose of this artwork is to build relationships and make connections, initially, within the three communities, Ruchill, Maryhill and Gilshochill, which are now physically re-joined by the new bridge. This creative making will provide a vehicle for social action and positive change within north Glasgow.”

Nichol has affectionately named the Beithir `Bella’, a nod to his hero and mentor, the late Alasdair Gray, who he worked with for 15 years on various visual works and public projects.

Bella Baxter is the main character in Gray’s novel Poor Things which has recently been adapted and released for film.

Nichol added: “I’m honoured to have received Scottish Canals second monumental art commission. The majority of this artwork comes and will come from reclaimed materials and will involve up to 30,000 folk in the making of it. The Beithir is a testament to what happens when art and communities come together to deliver a shared vision.”

The £14m active travel bridge, which was officially opened in December 2022, connects Ruchill, Maryhill and Gilshochill over the Forth & Clyde Canal for the first time since 1790.

The development of the foot and cycle bridge represents significant travel improvements for those communities throughout Glasgow.

Scottish Canals Chief Executive John Paterson said: “The Beithir is going to be an amazing piece of artwork. The scale of the project is huge and will definitely put Stockingfield Bridge on the map. This area of Glasgow has seen great transformation over the years and Scottish Canals are proud to be a part of that.”

The national infrastructure project and associated artworks have been funded by the Scottish Government through Sustrans Scotland’s Places for Everyone and Network Engagement funds, Glasgow City Council’s Vacant Derelict Land Fund and SCAPE.

Cosmo Blake, Principal Network Development Manager at Sustrans Scotland said: “Stockingfield Bridge not only connected the communities of Ruchill, Gilshochill and Maryhill, but has created somewhere residents and visitors to the area can relax and enjoy what the Forth and Clyde Canal has to offer. The Beithir is going to be a fantastic addition to this scenic space and a celebration of the local community who have been at the heart of this project from the outset.”