Back on the street

Battle of the giants final40pc

Battle of the Giants

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.

Waterwheel

Waterwheel

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.

BOTG Tram end

Sheffield Tram on Mowbray Street

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.

The first 3

My, Simon’s and James’s cabinets brightening up Ball Street.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Troubadour’s tale

Desperate Measures

Desperate Measures

July 4th 1942, and Arctic Convoy PQ17 is under heavy attack by Torpedo Bombers flown from Luftwaffe air bases in Norway and Finland. The Navarino has already been abandoned and wallows ablaze in the water. The convoy is 240 miles east of Bear Island, and 800 miles still to go.

On the Panamanian registered freighter Troubador concern about a shortage of ammunition for the ships US Navy installed (and partially manned) defences has resulted in an inventive solution. On her deck she carries 3 M3 light tanks. These are armed with 37mm quick firing M5 guns, and the Troubadour’s hold contains armour piercing ammunition with tracer rounds, necessary against the well protected Heinkel HE-111 bombers the convoy faced. The decision was taken to break the seals on two tanks and the ammunition crates. 2 two man crews were assigned to man two of the tanks, and in this unusual manner she protected herself effectively enough to be one of the 11 merchant ships (of 36) that managed to get to Murmansk. Indeed, the Royal Navy were impressed enough by the approach as to recommend it to other ships in the convoy.

One of the more unusual tales of the Sea, it struck me in researching the story of the Arctic Convoys for my forthcoming exhibition just how inventive people are in the face of adversity. For merchant seamen and women, on their poorly (if at all) armed, and completely unarmoured ships the psychological impact of the unrelenting attacks of bombers and U-boats must have been huge. Human instinct tends to the fight or flight, and at 8 knots no ship can outrun an aircraft. It is admirable that in such circumstances creativity rather than panic rules, and I have titled the painting Desperate Measures in recognition of this.

Flier