The requistioning of horses during the 1914-18 war gave Sheffield’s industry a considerable problem. The horse was still the main means of transport, including that of moving goods and industrial plant around the City. One company came up with an unusual solution to the problem; Thomas Wards, a scrap dealer, leased an elephant from a menagerie in the city, and used her to help transport metal scrap and machinery around Sheffield, a vital contribution to the war effort. The elephant, Lizzie, was reputed to have overturned a steam traction engine, and I have depicted the aftermath of this, and placed the event in front of the Sheffield Tramways power station that is now the site of Kelham Island Industrial Museum.
In the 1980’s I worked for a community murals organisation in North London. We created murals in schools, hospitals, and a railway station, great fun and I learnt a lot. Now, 29 years later and I’m doing the same again, and loving it. I had been wondering for a while how my current, industrial inspired style would work as street art, and have been given the opportunity to find out thanks to an exciting initiative generated by the Kelham Island Community Alliance (KICA Facebook page).
The Kelham Island Arts & Cultural Heritage Trail started as an anti-graffiti measure, with a particular focus on telecommunications cabinets (those green steel boxs that have become such a feature of street furniture). It was recognised that taggers were less likely to spray over street art, and so a project to generate murals on all 27 of the cabinets was born.
The brief calls for artworks reflecting the cultural, environmental, industrial and social history of the area, and the individual boxes are sponsored by local businesses. The cabinet I painted is sponsored by a company called The Suit Works, who have a very positive approach to tackling unemployment (a subject very dear to me) – check them out Suitworks website
The Suitworks are a social enterprise, and were able to sponsor the cabinet due to support from Jerry Ibberson, whose family were Sheffield Cutlers, at the Violin Works in the centre of town Brief history of Ibbersons. In recognition of this, I have include a Violin in the painting, propped up in the bottom R/H corner.
Being a 3d work, I had and interesting time coming up with a cohesive design. One side panel references the River Don, the power source that enabled the growth of Sheffields industry.
The other shows a Sheffield Tram coming down Mowbray Street, appropriate given that the central panel shows the power station that generated electricity for the tramways network in the city.
So far three cabinets have been completed, and you can see them below. From left to right the works are by me, Simon Wigglesworth Baker, and James Croft. I also have a commission for a 4th, and we expect more to be completed over the next year. An exciting initative and one that I’m proud to be part of. I would like to thank KICA for the opportunity, and once again the Suitworks and Jerry for making it possible.