Rubbish mixtape: fan reunited with cassette 25 years after losing it

Steven Morris and agency
Photograph: mark phillips / Alamy/Alamy

A music fan has been reunited with a cassette tape she lost while on holiday 25 years ago after it washed up on a beach hundreds of miles away.

Stella Wedell was 12 when she took the tape on a Spanish holiday to listen to songs by the likes of Pet Shop Boys, Shaggy and Bob Marley on her Walkman.

Wedell, from Berlin, lost the tape either on the Costa Brava or in Mallorca and was astounded when she spotted it a quarter of a century later in an exhibition by the British artist and photographer Mandy Barker, who specialises in creating pieces out of plastic marine debris.

Barker had picked up the tape from the Playa de Barlovento beach in Lanzarote, had it restored – and made playable – by an expert at Plymouth University and included it in her touring exhibition Sea of Artifacts.

Stella Wedell on holiday in Spain in the early 1990s. Photograph: Stella Wedell/PA

“It was an astounding chance for Stella to walk into my exhibition and recognise her tape,” the artist said.

Prof Richard Thompson, the head of the international marine litter research unit at the university, said: “This is an amazing story and another example of the problem of plastic pollution.

“It is very difficult to say exactly how long the tape has been in the sea, but the fact it has survived intact shows the durability of plastic and the threat it can pose to the marine environment.”

Stella Wedell on holiday in Scandinavia in 2019. Photograph: Stella Wedell/PA

Wedell said that when she saw the exhibit – the tape and a playlist – it rang a bell with her.

“When I was reading the tracklist, it seemed very familiar to me. I always made tapes from my CDs at this time to listen to them with my Walkman, especially for holidays.” She copied her tape from the CD but didn’t include all the tracks.

“I took a picture of it and compared it with the original CD, which I still have – and it was exactly the same tracklist, but starting with track three. I remember that I didn’t like the first two songs on the CD because I felt they were too old so I wouldn’t have included them when I recorded the tape aged 12.”

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