AN ambitious community arts project to create a huge Mercian Mosaic has taken a big step forward thanks to the efforts of industrious members of the public who took part in a series of workshops during half term.
It is estimated that around 200 volunteers from Tamworth and further afield dropped in and got creative during three days of workshops held at the project’s base of operations in a unit in Ankerside Shopping Centre.
Mercian Mosaic will see 1,400 individual yard-square tiles being decorated by people of all ages to create a large and striking Anglo-Saxon-themed image, which will be laid out on the lower lawn of Tamworth Castle Grounds for one day only on Saturday, July 14th.
Hundreds of tiles have already been completed by willing volunteers from across the town, including from schools, church and community groups, sheltered housing schemes and art groups.
This was boosted by around another 200 tiles finished during the half-term workshops to take the project past the halfway mark. Children and adults picked up pens and paintbrushes to create various elements of the mosaic including flowers, fish, ducks, geese, butterflies and life-size figures.
Mercian Mosaic is being led by Tamworth artist Maggie Carney, who has been commissioned by Tamworth Borough Council’s Arts & Events team to create the intricate design which will cover 70 yards by 20 yards when it’s laid out in the Castle Grounds.
The striking overall design features key elements of the town’s Anglo-Saxon history, incorporating its landmark buildings, rivers and people, as well as details such as Tamworth pigs, dragons, the Staffordshire knot and Mercian flag.
At the centre is Tamworth’s ‘Lady of the Mercians’ Aethelflaed, who played a pivotal role in English history by building a chain of fortifications against Viking invaders throughout the Kingdom of Mercia.
Her fortification of Tamworth in 913 AD became the forerunner to Tamworth Castle. Daughter of Alfred the Great, Aethelflaed’s accession as a female ruler has been described as one of the most unique events in early medieval history.
This year marks the 1100th anniversary of Aethelflaed’s death in Tamworth and the laying of the mosaic will form part of a weekend of celebrations to mark the occasion.
Mercian Mosaic is one of several initiatives taking place as part of Arts in Unusual Spaces – a two-year scheme made possible with funding from Arts Council England to bring art to new and interesting spaces across the town.
Maggie said: “The workshops were amazing and I’d like to thank everyone who took part for their contributions. We had lots of people of all ages and abilities coming in and a good chunk of the work was completed – if only we could do this every week! There was also a great deal of interest surrounding the town’s Anglo-Saxon history and particularly the role of Aethelflaed and several people came to share their stories and chat about that.”
There is still plenty more to be done on the project and further workshops will be arranged in the future. If anyone wants to get involved in the meantime, they are invited to pop in and lend a hand whenever they see Maggie working away in the unit.
Cllr Robert Pritchard, Deputy Leader of Tamworth Borough Council, said: “It’s been great to see so many people taking the opportunity to be a part of something truly amazing. All these volunteers will now have the fun of seeing how their piece fits into the giant puzzle when the mosaic is put together on July 14. As well as giving people the chance to get creative, Mercian Mosaic is also raising awareness of our rich Anglo-Saxon heritage which is something we should be celebrating.”
Jeff Wigley, Ankerside Shopping Centre manager, said: “It was great to see so many people take part in the Mercian Mosaic workshops during half-term. I’m thrilled that we’ve been able to support the council with such a fantastic project. It’s great having Maggie here as she works away and everyone at the centre is very much looking forward to the next set of workshops and seeing the final mosaic when it goes on display in July.”