- completed Spring 2008
- budget £18,000.00
- commissioned jointly by Community Forests North West & Trafford Metropolitan Borough Council in conjunction with The Friends of Kingsway Park
- supported by Big Lottery, Greening Greater Manchester and Trees for Cities
- collaborated with artist Karen Allerton
This project involved working closely with the landscape architect, Adam Rout, and the parks department of Trafford MBC; special projects manager Peter Stringer and community officer Kevin Wigley, from the Red Rose Forest Team at CFNW and the Friends of Kingsway Park. I subcontracted artist Karen Allerton to work with me mainly on the community consultation part of the project, as this was a very extensive component of the commission.
We researched the significance of the site and its role as a gun battery defending Trafford Park during World War II and devised a number of consultation activities to engage with local people. This had a knock-on affect and it wasn’t long before we were sitting with a cup of tea in the front room of an older resident hearing her first hand account of life in the war years when the park housed guns. We collaborated closely with the key partners: The Friends of Kingsway Park, Red Rose Forest and Trafford MBC and were especially sympathetic to the aspirations of the Friends group.
Courtesy of the Friends, we were introduced to local historian Alan Crossland, who provided us with some useful records to aid our research work. Upon completion of the project, Alan was quoted in the Manchester Metro News commenting, “The design of the artwork successfully represents every aspect of the site’s history. It will act as a permanent memorial to get people interested in the history and ensure the park’s important past is not forgotten”
We also made good contacts at the Imperial War Museum and had the honour of working with a Second World War veteran, Derek Hall, who agreed to present a talk to two of our school groups about his personal experience in the parachute regiment. Kingsway Park was the site of a former anti-aircraft battery and World War Two Prisoner of War Camp. The gun battery in the park was positioned to protect Trafford Park industrial estate where parts for the Lancaster Bomber were made at the Metropolitan Vickers factory. Derek had personal knowledge of these bomber planes, which he imparted to the school children and us. It was interesting to discover what little awareness most of the local people had of the site’s role in fairly recent history. When by chance we met the man who comes to trim the grass for Trafford MBC, for example, on one of our site visits, he was intrigued to discover what the lumps of concrete and iron actually were that he’d been carefully working around on a regular basis!
We worked with three schools within a short distance of the site and hosted an open weekend event on the park for local people to take part in. Each participant at the park event created a copper poppy with a personal tribute message inscribed on it to recognise sacrifices made in World War II.
In one of the school workshops that I especially enjoyed we set up the classroom as a mock munitions factory. We split the class into three groups and each had to organise their production line efficiently to output as many assembled shells as possible against the stopwatch. We provided each production line with the same plastic and cardboard component parts and instructions of how they had to be assembled. We thought it would help to give the pupils a personal insight into factory life for workers during the war years. To add to the authenticity, we even sounded a siren part way through and ordered them under the tables for their own safety, so that they could imagine the danger that these workers faced on a daily basis.
Following the workshops and community events, we displayed an exhibition in the leisure centre adjacent to the site and invited all the groups that we had worked with, as well as leafleting all the local residents with an invitation to join us. We showed our initial ideas as sketches and discussed them with the visitors. Acting upon the feedback received, I produced the proposal below that the Friends were very keen to go ahead with.
However this design did not receive approval from the council’s parks department, so it was “back to the drawing board”…..
This proposal was fully approved and, subject to a few very minor modifications, we produced this design as the finished work. The “Floorpiece” includes the application of cast bronze, laser-cut stainless steel, resin-bonded aggregate, tarmac and cast stone. Each of the bronze panels were cast from a handmade polystyrene original.
The final design echoes the predictor equipment, searchlights and radar instruments that formed part of the anti- aircraft battery. It also responds sensitively to the site itself: a quiet but poignant spot for local people to visit, conducive to quiet contemplation. The cast bronze and stainless steel elements provide information for the public to learn about the site’s history and highlight the remaining evidence of the gun emplacements.