Magnificent artwork pays tribute to Flintshire town’s history

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Twelve-foot-high metal ribs representing the structure of a ship and branching out at their tips into bronze leaves now stand outside a town’s new supermarket.

The artwork commemorates Saltney’s shipbuilding past and its creator, sculptor Stephen Broadbent, has cleverly used them to frame seats, inlaid with ceramic tiles, on to which are printed the artwork of year 10 pupils at St David’s High School.

The mayor, Cllr Veronica Gay, was there to see them officially unveiled ahead of her parade and the occasion was marked by a rousing musical performance by pupils of St David’s and by those of Saltney and Saltney Ferry primary schools – Wood Memorial, Saltney Ferry and Broughton Junior School – which contributed to the project by creating banners for the parade.

The striking piece of public art outside the new Morrisons store and the part played in its creation by local children has been made possible by a collaboration between Morrisons, Flintshire County Council, Saltney Town Council and rural regeneration agency Cadwyn Clwyd.

The latter put up £12,500 through its Sense of Place Project, part of the Rural Development Plan for Wales 2007-2013, paid for by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development and the Welsh Assembly Government.

Cllr Gay said: “I can’t believe the way this project has pulled the whole town together to create this wonderful piece of artwork.

“It has involved all the generations – from the members of the local historical society right down to the young children from the primary school. One day they will be able to show this to their grandchildren and tell them they played a part in creating this.”

Gwenno Jones, arts, culture and events manager for Flintshire County Council, said: “We have to say thank-you to Cadwyn Clwyd, who funded this community project, which included pupils from St David’s, who designed the tiles, and the primary school children, who attended workshops with the artist.

“The whole community, especially the young people, are very creative and very talented.”

Cadwyn Clwyd project officer Keira Derbyshire said: “We have been able to help local school pupils commemorate the area’s rich history through this project and from the Sense of Place point of view, it has been important for the children to learn about where they’re from and celebrate it at the mayor’s parade, while for the older students it has formed part of their GCSE coursework.”

The Morrisons development off Saltney High Street, led to the regeneration of an old derelict industrial site and the creation of nearly 300 new jobs at the store.

Vickie Hughson, who teaches art at St David’s and is from Saltney herself, said: “The artwork produced by the students has been printed on to ceramic tiles through a computerised process.

“This is the first time I’ve seen the tiles and I’m really pleased with it and I hope it helps the children feel proud of their environment and their heritage.

“The year 10 GCSE group have interviewed members of the Saltney and Saltney Ferry history group to get an understanding of Saltney’s maritime history of shipbuilding and chain-making.

“They have then come up with artwork based on that history. It was great for the group to interview people and get a better understanding of the area’s history.”

Artist Stephen Broadbent, who works from the studio base of his creative design company at Harthill, between Chester and Northwich, said: “It’s been wonderful to be part of this community and learn about its history. A lot of places I come to have treasures that are hidden and stories that haven’t been told and this is a story that needs to be told. The artwork tries to do that.”

The Morrisons store also reflects the town’s nautical past through its waved and curved canopies, while its main entrance has a clock tower designed to look like a lighthouse.

Stephen, who has completed major public artworks all over the country, including the Drift Park in Rhyl, added: “Cadwyn Clwyd came up with extra funding which allowed the schools project to go ahead and which involved the children’s artwork being collaged and printed on to ceramics for the base of the seats.

“The sculpture represents a ship’s ribs and is made of steel and bronze with a base of wood and ceramics.”

Stephen is also acknowledging the part played by Saltney and Saltney Ferry History Group by helping with a re-design of the group’s website on to which he hopes to include some of the video interviews carried out by St David’s pupils.

- Anyone interested in Cadwyn Clwyd’s Sense of Place Projects can contact Keira Derbyshire on 01824 705802 or e-mail admin@cadwynclwyd.co.uk

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