With a collection of over 2000 works, the CW+ Art Collection at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital requires regular maintenance, restoration, cleaning, and conservation. When it comes to our larger or more difficult to reach pieces, we seek the help of industrial abseil company MantaRay Abseil Limited.
MantaRay use abseiling equipment attached to the roof of the hospital to clean suspended artworks such as the Acrobat by Allan Jones and Falling Leaves by Sian Tucker. They also hang from heights in the main atrium spaces to clean larger artworks installed on the walls, including Richard Smith’s Seraphim and Joy Gerrard’s The Assembly/450. Without these vital cleaning works, the pieces would degrade over time and potentially become unsafe, making MantaRay an essential part of managing our huge collection.
We had the pleasure of speaking to some of the team from MantaRay who completed a recent collection clean in July this year. The guys gave their highlights of working in such an unusual role, and advice for anyone interested in exploring a similar career path!
Just who are MantaRay?
MantaRay is London and Cambridge based industrial abseiling company.
How did you become part of the MantaRay team?
Differently to most, MantaRay Abseil is my family-run business. As soon as I was 18, I knew I wanted to train and work for my family.
Did you need any special training?
This job needs a lot of specialist training. I started when I was 18 and had to do a course in rope access. At the end of the training I passed an assessment called IRATA Level 1. Three years later, I then did further training and was assessed to Level 2. Another three years after, that I did advanced training and was assessed to Level 3.
What sort of other jobs do MantaRay do apart from collection cleaning?
We carry out a multitude of tasks ranging from electrical installations, inspections, maintenance, and testing. For example, we work on mobile phone, WiFi antenna and cabling installations; mastic pointing work; curtain wall installations; glazing installations; all types of rigging; painting; intumescent repairs; safe access and escort to the work site; maintenance and inspections of fabric tensile structures including PTFE and PVC fabric welding repairs; the inspection, cleaning, maintenance and repair of artwork and sculptures; vinyl graphics installations; pest control installations such as netting and spiking; repointing of brickwork; rendering; NDT inspections; pull out and anchor bolt testing; welding; all types of building inspections; all types of roof repairs; waterproofing; gutter clearance; and many types of cleaning. Just to name a few.
What’s your favourite thing about working with MantaRay?
I love the people I work with, and all the exciting jobs we get to do on different types of buildings. The most challenging aspect is working in all types of weather, especially in the winter.
What are the risks associated with working at a height? How do you tackle this?
The biggest risk is the risk of falling. However, the correct PPE, correct training, and following all specific site rules largely reduces this risk.
What’s the strangest/biggest/most fun job you’ve done?
The strangest job I have ever done was installing the Cockerel at the THFC Stadium London. The biggest job have worked on was cleaning the entire O2 roof, which is the largest roof of its type in the world. The most fun job I get to do is a monthly internal inspection at the ArcelorMittal Orbit, which involves going down the slide.
What advice would you give someone who’d like to get into a similar field?
Get trained. Pass your level one and never stop trying to get your foot in the door, and one day you’ll get your lucky break.