Therapy crafters create stunning artwork for outdoor spectacle

Wednesday, 22nd April 2015

MEMBERS of a craft therapy group at Tamworth’s Wellbeing and Cancer Support Centre have helped create a stunning piece of art which will form a key element of the town’s biggest ever outdoor display of dance, acrobatics and music.

The stained glass window-style design will be transferred onto a 10ft by 8ft piece of fabric and will drop down from the Castle Grounds bandstand at the end of Tigress – a ground-breaking collaboration between the nationally-acclaimed performance company Motionhouse and hundreds of Tamworth dancers, singers and drummers.

Set against the stunning backdrop of Tamworth Castle, Tigress is a modern retelling of the story of the town’s Saxon warrior queen Ethelfleda.

The Saxon-inspired window has been designed by well-known Tamworth artist Maggie Carney, who spent months working on the project with the help of clients and volunteers at the Tamworth Wellbeing and Cancer Support Centre where she runs a weekly craft therapy group for people suffering from cancer and other chronic illnesses.

Their 5ft by 4ft prototype on MDF will be transferred onto fabric ahead of the three performances of Tigress on Saturday May 9th and Sunday May 10th.

The window is made up of a number of panels depicting items such as Celtic motifs, musical instruments, the Saxon flag, the Mercian flag, stonemasons at work, a quote from the Anglo Saxon chronicle, a Viking ship, a map of Mercia and the letter ‘A’ for Aethelflaeda – as it would have been written then.

Members of a craft therapy group at Tamworth’s Wellbeing and Cancer Support Centre with their glass

Members of a craft therapy group at Tamworth’s Wellbeing and Cancer Support Centre with their glass

At the centre of the work is a stunning image of Ethelfleda, painted by Maggie using her daughter Charlotte, who has a degree in sword fighting, as the model. All jewellery in the image has been based on genuine items in the Staffordshire Hoard.

All elements of the design have been thoroughly researched and are as true to the life and times of Queen Ethelfleda as possible. The names of all the volunteers who contributed to the project have also been included on the work, written in Anglo Saxon Runes.

Retired school teacher and freelance artist, Maggie, has been leading the group at the Stonydelph-based centre for two years.

She said: “Around 30 people helped with the project in one way or another and I would like to thank every single one of them for making this such a wonderful experience.

“I have seen people whose confidence has grown as a result of taking part because they didn’t think they could do it and have been pleased with the end result.”

The centre users who contributed to the project are now looking forward to seeing the finished piece during the forthcoming performances of Tigress.

Karen Taft said: “When Maggie brought the project to the centre, we all found an interest. We all came in ready to do something most of us had never done before. I never enjoyed art classes at school as I can’t draw, so the thought of this first left me apprehensive, but I enjoyed everything I helped to create and working as part of a group was fantastic.

“It has given us great pride to say we have taken part and that it will be shown in and around Tamworth during Tigress. We now look forward to our craft days because we know we can create something wonderful in our sessions with Maggie.”

Mair Brown said: “The whole experience was well worth doing – very therapeutic. It was also great to work as part of a team as I felt valued and this helped with my confidence and self-worth.

“When you’re ill and home alone it can be very isolating so you lose confidence in yourself. To be part of something like this for the community has done wonders for my health and well-being.”

Marianne Croft added: “I have loved taking part in the Ethelfleda project. I learned about some Tamworth history and have gained confidence with my art work.”

Renowned around the world for large scale outdoor productions, Motionhouse will create a thrilling show encompassing their characteristic athletic and energetic style together with more than 200 participants from Tamworth and supported by local drumming groups and choirs.

Members of the community have also contributed to the production by knitting squares of wool which will be joined together to create a huge Mercian flag that will be dramatically flung out over the castle motte as part of the performance.

The one-off Tigress masterpiece forms the I Am Dance element of the ambitious I Am Tamworth project and is the centre-piece of Tamworth Borough Council’s 12-month celebration of the arts.

Tigress will be shown to audiences across three free performances, at 2pm and 7pm on Saturday May 9th and at 2pm on Sunday May 10th and will hopefully attract thousands of visitors from Tamworth and further afield.