After a year in development Occupation, my project for The Ring in Worcester, has finally begun. So now it’s time to begin documenting the work as it progresses, and reveal a little of the background behind it.
Diglis Island has been a place of purpose and activity from its creation in 1844 (carved from a bend in the River Severn) to the mid-80s when its use as a hub for maintenance along the Severn and connected canals was transferred elsewhere.
At its peak approximately 80 people would’ve been working on the Island, building and fixing lock gates, dredging the river, and operating the locks to guide petrol tankers to the basin.
During WWII the Island was fortified with barbed wire, trenches and loophole windows (and possibly land mines) in order to protect the delivery of fuel.
As the use of canals waned activity on the Island dropped away. Now it is a quiet place, with a workshop that is unused, a small staff from C&RT, and a single resident in one of the three cottages. The only activity being the passing through the lock of tourists in narrow boats and the blacksmiths forge - now repurposed by a pewter sculptor. There is occasional excitement when the locks are drained and the gates fixed or replaced, or when the Island becomes periodically submerged due to flooding. Few people realise it is an island.
The purpose of my project is to rekindle interest in the Island by returning it (albeit briefly) to a place of activity and production, and creating an identity for the Island - making it distinct from the mainland. I aim to do this by producing a structural sculpture that will grow over a period of time. This sculpture has been inspired by the form of the locks, the buildings present on the Island and its history as a place of practicality, construction, maintenance and defence. The title ‘Occupation’ refers to the aspects of work and habitation that have occurred over the years, along with my own temporary taking over of part of the Island.
To achieve this sense of activity and occupancy I have begun building a structure on the Island. This structure will grow gradually over a number of months, with two or three structures added every few weeks, slowly taking over a patch of grass and concrete next to the crane. Regular users of the towpath will notice as the structure grows, and also might catch a glimpse of me as I work on the Island. I’ll be updating this website with the work’s progression too.