I’ve just finish an intensive three day action research project in West Bromwich looking at linking the High Street to the beautiful Dartmouth Park. Myself and five other artists spent some time exploring the route, meeting with various folk and brainstorming ideas for artworks which could be created to highlight and enhance the journey from the High Street to the park.
West Bromwich is under-going major regeneration works at the moment - mostly due to Europe’s largest Tesco being built on a site that is pretty much the same size as the adjacent town centre. A previous ‘regeneration’ saw a dual carriage-way bypass (the A41) cut through between the town and the park making it difficult to get to - which is something the Tesco development hasn’t really taken into account. The above plan shows the routes that I have plotted that lead to the three bridges that span the bypass providing the only access from the town. This plan is post-Tesco, by the way.
I went on a walk to all three bridges to see what it was like to make the journey. It was confusing. Granted the development is currently in progress but the routes to the north and middle bridges will be fairly similar as there is not much scope for going through the site even after it is completed. I started off trying to get to the north bridge via the roundabout but found it impassable due to the works taking place. I followed the edge of the site (hidden by the blue hoarding shown in the above image) to make my way to the bridge. It felt like the hoarding was guiding me - particularly due to the red stripe along the top edge which drew my eye.
So I developed a scheme of strips which would wind there way through the streets above head height, leading you from the centre of the high street to the bridges, following the routes I had mapped on the plan. They would not be continuous - they would break for road junctions, and also not span the complete length of a street, so you would see the next section over or down the road and know which way to go. And of course they wouldn’t hover magically in the air! We were so pressed for time I wasn’t able to draw supports in - but I envisage a very simple square column with a 45degree arched top and a plate to which the strips would be bolted or riveted.
The colour comes from the Broom (pictured above), the plant that West Bromwich is named after - it’s domesday book reference describing it as ‘the little village on the heath of broom’.
I also felt I was on the right track when Johnny (one of the other artists involved) and I found this boat. It’s the last surviving boat from when boating was allowed on the park’s lake (something which may be returning). The boat is in a state of disrepair but had recently been repainted a wonderful yellow. I really like these kinds of coincidences.
I was looking for a symbol or form that could represent the park in the High Street at the beginning of the trail, and my initial thoughts for this were to find out what the draw is at the park - what brings people to it?. The boating used to be the thing that people went to the park for so, for the purposes of the presentation I used the idea of the boat. Some kind of sculpture based on the boat would sit at this point with the curving strips emanating from it, bringing a part of the park into the town and guiding the way.
There is more to add to this project - I even had in mind a scheme for the three bridges - but we simply ran out of time. It was a great experience - a very exciting way to kick off the development of a project. Hopefully this won’t be the end of it.
’Rich… in process & consideration to detail, spatial awareness & inspiring use of materials, beguiling & innovative transformations, challenging & thoughtful interventions, and it’s not all blackened.... White.’