New Pieces of Public Art Planned for Whitley

PLANS to install three new public sculptures in Whitley have been given the go-ahead.

Artist Bruce Williams has been commissioned by the Council to produce public art installations for the area, using funding from Tesco linked to planning permission for the nearby Tesco Distribution Centre, which was specifically ring-fenced for physical work of art in the area.

The designs incorporate photographs of a local football team, dinner ladies and pupils from a nearby school.

Mr Williams, who created the Oscar Wilde Memorial Walk, in Chestnut Walk, has been out in the community gathering ideas and material for the project.

He has visited coffee mornings and local events to ask residents what Whitley Wood means to them and he was consistently told it is all about the people and the sense of community.

The pictures chosen to feature in his artwork are:

  • Dinner ladies and children from Geoffrey Fields Primary School on two banners at the junction of Exbourne Road and Northumberland Avenue.
  • A group of Whitley school children and their Headteacher on an A frame on the Engineers Arms Roundabout.
  • A picture featuring local football team Rabson’s Rovers

At its meeting on Wednesday 6th September Members of the Council’s Planning Applications Committee approved the siting of the first two pieces of art and delegated to officers to approve the third one once its new site had been sorted out.

This was in response to public opinion that the picture of Rabson’s Rovers should be located at the Rabson Recreation Ground, where they used to play.

It was also agreed that a small sign would be included to explain Tesco’s involvement in the project.

Trish Bennett, from the Whitley Community Museum, said:

“When we heard about the public art project for Whitley I said why don’t we use some of the photos from the museum project because we are talking about ongoing pride in the community looking back and going forward.

“So there is a mix of old and new pictures, including current pupils and dinner ladies from Geoffrey Fields Primary and a picture of Rabson’s Rovers from the 1950s. Some of us would like to have a heritage trail around Whitley and these images would make a perfect link to the past and present.”

Rev Vernon Orr, Whitley resident and Vicar of St Agnes Church, said:

“I think good community art adds something to a neighbourhood.

“I like the fact these all represent real local people past and present from Whitley and Whitley Wood.  Years ago I played against Rabson’s Rovers so the football one is a special one for me.”

Councillor Rachel Eden, Member of Whitley Public Art Project Steering Group, said:

“We asked the artist to work with the community to create something that local residents can feel connected to and proud of.

“The designs are a real celebration of Whitley and capture the history and spirit of the area particularly well.”

Cllr Liz Terry, Reading’s Lead Member for Neighbourhoods, said:

“Whitley has a strong sense of community and pride and it is important that residents feel part of this public art project.

“Artist Bruce Williams has spent a considerable amount of time meeting members of the community and carrying out research into the area and it is quite right his work features the people of the area.”

Notes to Editors

Tesco contributed £81,800 for public art as part of the s106 agreement for its warehouse distribution centre in Imperial Way, south Reading. The agreement also secured £250,000 for works to the A33/Imperial Way roundabout to mitigate the effects of the development and a further £323,076 towards transport infrastructure improvements. Tesco was also required to put together an Employment and Skills Plan to provide work opportunities for residents during the construction stage and within the distribution centre.

Bruce Williams was commissioned by Reading Borough Council with the Arts Council of England to create Oscar Wilde Memorial Walk in 2000, consisting of two gates with the image of Oscar Wilde, railings incorporating poetry by Paul Muldoon, three love seats and a stone bench the same size as his prison bed.

The Whitley Community Museum Facebook page celebrates the people of Whitley and their memories among its membership of nearly 1,300 people.

Victoria Nickless

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