Tuesday, 26 January 2021

Artist’s phone box tribute

Artist’s phone box tribute

AN artist from Christmas Common decorated the village’s phone box in tribute to the NHS and to mark VE Day.

Jaine McCormack organises the Watlington Artweek festival, which was due to be held this month but had to be cancelled because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Before decorating the old red kiosk, Mrs McCormack had to clear away some undergrowth and sweep up glass from windows that had been broken. She then washed it.

For the NHS tribute she wrapped the landmark in coloured fabric to look like a rainbow and used DVD cases to cut out letters to spell “NHS” along with a blue heart.

She then created a new design with a VE Day theme which she completed ready for the 75th anniversary on May 8. She wrapped the phone box in checked bunting, added two Union flags and spelt out “VE Day 75” in letters also made from DVD cases.

Mrs McCormack, a designer and stylist of home textiles and interiors, said: “I thought ‘what can I do that’s a bit creative that would bring a bit of life to Christmas Common?’

“I’ve got tonnes of fabric so I made the rainbow and wrapped it around and used DVD cases to make the letters.

“I got lots of messages from people both in person and on WhatsApp saying, ‘fantastic, it looks really great’. A friend in Watlington said, ‘you’re going viral’ because someone had photographed it and sent it to her.”

Mrs McCormack, who lives with her husband Robert, a photographer and former parish councillor, said they had both benefited from the NHS.

She added: “The staff that you meet are extraordinary and are wonderful people. To have an amazing healthcare system is the most important thing to celebrate.

“We have six doctors in the village and we have been doing a Christmas Common clap every Thursday, as most people have. It’s such a social thing. Because of the size of the village and the fact the houses are spaced out people shout across the road to say ‘hello’.”

Mrs McCormack hopes her decoration of the box will act as a catalyst to improve it permanently.

“It’s the only landmark in the village apart from the pub and these old boxes are iconic,” she said. “I think anything that makes people smile is quite nice.”

The parish council purchased the box for £1 from BT under its Adopt a Kiosk scheme.

Meanwhile, the Artweek festival has been turned into a miniature version online.

Artists are creating small versions of their work, which are displayed and photographed each week in woodland near Watlington before being posted on social media.

The exact location remains a secret to prevent crowds gathering, but once the lockdown restrictions have been lifted organisers hope to let members of the public “walk by” and view the work in return for donations to the Prince’s Trust and the  Riverside Counselling Service in Henley.

The idea was devised by contemporary artist and resident Frances Ackland-Snow who wanted to link the countryside and some of the 81 artists who would have been exhibiting at the festival. She is the founder of the Creative Minds Consultancy, which helps to improve people’s wellbeing through art. 

Mrs Ackland-Snow  asked 
artists to produce 2.5in by 3.5in versions of their pieces to display within a tree’s external roots.

They responded with works using different mediums, including photography, ceramics and paint. for the display, which is called “Back to our Roots” and will have new pieces added weekly.

Mrs McCormack said: “This initiative by Frances further demonstrates the strength of our local artists’ community and the comfort art can bring during uncertainty.

“Watlington Artweek will be back stronger, better and bigger in 2021. In the meantime we are planning a number of art moments such as this to keep our artists connected, support our local businesses and bring pleasure to our wider community too.”

Watlington Artweek is part of Oxfordshire Artweeks, the UK’s biggest free open studio and pop-up exhibition event. For more information, visit, www.artweeks.org 

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