Historical Interpretation in the Park through Inter-Generational Workshops
FoSJP asked the Media Workshop to help us by facilitating and running inter‑generational art‑based workshops, providing an opportunity to share research and oral histories of older people with younger generations, and resulting in a creative piece of historical interpretation artwork to be displayed in St.James’ Park. The artwork was to be sensitive both to its location in the Park, and to the Park being within the St.James’ Road Conservation Area. The design team for the Park suggested that this artwork be located on the wall of the new zipwire platform.
In January 2011, the Media Workshop met with the FoSJP History Research Group to find out about the Park’s varied and rich history. Oral history interviewees have also been sharing memories of the Park from the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s; at workshops with pupils from Upper Shirley High School, the children spoke to two of these interviewees and used the information that they learned to inspire some photographic artwork.
The pupils and the artist came up with some wonderful ideas. To get the opinions of a wider group, Anna Vickers from the Media Workshop presented some examples of the artwork during the interval at the Public History Talk on Sunday 6th March 2011, which generated much interest. Anna also consulted Southampton City Council: because the Park is in a conservation area, she was advised that the designs should be subtle, rather than multi‑coloured. The accepted technique is water jet‑cut metal (3mm thick aluminium), powder coated in black.
Initial ideas were gathered and the artist’s designs, which include some of the students working on this project, were approved by a group including representatives from FoSJP and our sponsors Southampton City Council and the Heritage Lottery Fund.
Zipwire Wall Artwork – the final design
Café windows design, by Sarah Silverstein
The design show the links between the park building and its World War II origins as an Air Raid Precaution (ARP) building. During this period the RAF/WAAF also operated a barrage balloon in the park to deter enemy planes. The building subsequently became the changing room for football teams, public toilets, a park staff canteen, and more recently the FoSJP Kiosk (2006‑2010).
In 2010‑2011, thanks to a Parks for People award (from the Heritage Lottery Fund and Big Lottery Fund), the building was converted to a Café and Community Room. The design challenge for the building was “to deliver something of great value to the community yet retain the integrity of our heritage” (Design Engine Architects Ltd).
Café windows artwork in situ
FoSJP particularly wanted to give a young artist or illustrator the opportunity to work on a high profile piece of public art, and Sarah was chosen by her tutors as a student with talent, potential, and motivation. Sarah worked with FoSJP under the guidance of her supervisors, Peter Lloyd and Jonny Hannah.
Limited edition prints of Sarah’s work are available by appointment; please contact Sarah via email@example.com.
The Shirley Timeline is an interpretation panel displayed on the Park building. It depicts the history of the Park, both visually and in text, set against a backdrop of British and world history, and includes maps, photographs, old postcards, images of artefacts from museums, and photographs donated by members of the public.
There are also silhouettes on the timeline cleverly revealing changes in fashion and children’s toys – some of these silhouettes are of real Shirley people dressed in period costume; others were created by artist Anna Vickers, who took the design concept and crafted it into this visual masterpiece.