Thursday, 18 January 2018
HUNDREDS of people attended the opening of a community art installation spanning the entire length of Whitchurch Bridge, writes James Burton.
Residents have contributed more than 100 homemade pieces to the “yarn bombing” display, which was unveiled on Saturday and will remain in place until next Sunday.
A series of knitted tiles featuring characters and scenes inspired by the Thames Path have been attached to the girder that runs along the pavement on the western side of the toll bridge. The sides have been adorned with panels featuring paintings, drawings, needlecraft and other techniques such as pictures made from shredded carrier bags.
Participants set up the display on Saturday morning and then gathered at the Boathouse Surgery in Pangbourne, where organisers Gill Williamson and Alison Livesey gave a short welcoming speech. Everybody then marched to the bridge to admire their handiwork and discuss it with passers-by.
Pupils from Whitchurch and Pangbourne primary schools and the Oratory Preparatory School in Goring Heath, members of the villages’ twinning associations and retired servicemen and women from the Royal Hospital Chelsea were among the contributors.
Chelsea pensioners Frank Mouque, Audrey Merton and Charmaine Coleman attended the launch and received a round of applause as they arrived.
The artworks depicted people and animals taking part in various activities such as canoeing, fishing, camping and hiking. There are also scenes from nature, views of London from the Thames towpath and anti-littering slogans.
Mrs Williamson, of Eastfield Lane, Whitchurch, said: “It was a fantastic day. The set-up went completely smoothly, which was quite a relief, and I’m really grateful for all the help we received to make it possible. I don’t know how many people were there but more than 2,000 leaflets were taken across the opening weekend so it seems to be very popular.
“Lots of children have taken part and they’ve all been taking their parents down to have a look at it. It’s really good for their confidence to see their work on public display.
“We’ve received lots of positive feedback and I know there have been quite a few ‘beeps’ on the bridge where motorists have slowed right down to take it all in. Everyone is blown away at how much creativity and energy there is in the village. There’s a real sense of wonder and awe because people didn’t realise just how impressive the finished piece would be.”
Mrs Livesey, of Swanston Field, Whitchurch, said: “I’ve been utterly delighted with how it’s gone so far. We’ve had so much positive interest and had a very healthy attendance at the opening event.
“The bridge was absolutely heaving and one person even told me he’d been dubious about the idea but was very impressed to see the final display.
“It has exceeded all our expectations and it has proven so diverse. You give people one theme and it’s incredible how many different interpretations they come up with.
“Anyone who hasn’t seen it yet should definitely come down because once it’s gone, it’s gone. No photographs can do it justice — you’ve really got to see all the little details for yourself.” As part of the exhibition, a knitted figure called Sam Mouse has been hidden at several locations in Whitchurch and Pangbourne and children will be challenged to record as many sightings as possible.
The highest scorers wil lbe entered in a prize draw which will be made on the exhibition’s final day.
The organisers hope to raise at least £2,000 to be shared between 22 good causes, including Whitchurch primary and pre-schools, Whitchurch Hill Women’s Institute, Whitchurch and Goring Heath’s twinning association and history society, the Thames Valley Air Ambulance and Whitchurch and Whitchurch Hill’s parish churches.
There will be collection boxes at the bridge toll booth and the individual artworks will be auctioned over the summer. Supporters can also donate by texting YARN17 to 70070.
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