Illustrative examples of the kind of works that could be commissioned.
This is our vision for Spalding Town centre prepared to support our bid for funding from the UK Shared Prosperity Scheme.
“What is there to come into Spalding for?” says a despondent voice on social media? Other voices post an engaging, fizzing future for the town centre. A revitalised market, bistros, an indoor children’s play area, buskers, entertainers and music from the South Holland Centre to the Seating Circle in Hall Place. Lets throw in a regular outdoor auction and boating on the river. But is that enough?
“Spalding town centre can offer something different to Springfield’s says High Streets Task Force expert Graham Soult. “Be what Springfields isn’t. Unique” says Ben Thorpe.
But why not make Spalding unique not only compared to Springfields, but unique compared to Boston and Stamford as well. What follows is a version of the funding bid Spalding and District Civic Society is preparing to the UK Shared Prosperity Fund, to do just that.
The Market Art Project aims to celebrate Spalding’s market in its livestock heyday (also the annual hiring fair), and South Holland’s present-day importance to the nation‟s food supply.
Site of the Original Cattle Market, New Road, Spalding
The original idea centred on the past: a group of sculptures, mosaics and murals in the town centre, sited where the animals were traditionally sold. It was extended to take in the present day when most of the small bronzes by Joseph Hillier, our first commissioned artist, turned out to figure people nearly all related in some way to the area’s present-day food production and processing.
The project offers the prospect of a major uplift to the town centre. As well as enhancing its attractiveness for all who live and work here, it has the potential to become a visitor attraction, increasing footfall in the town.
Of the UK Shared Prosperity Fund‟s three priorities it would relate to both “local community and places” and “supporting local business”
The art works representing the area’s present-day food production are already in place or in hand, and we hope the livestock side of the project will result in work as lively and varied in style as the examples below:-
Transported – and so Arts Council England
Spalding Town Forum
Previous SHDC Conservation Officers Liz Mayle, Julie-Ann Middleditch, Mark Simmonds
Ian Marshman (LCC Historic Environment Officer)
County and District Ward Members for the town centre Elizabeth Sneath (LCC; SHDC Heritage Champion)
Coun. Nick Worth (LCC Arts Portfolio
and SHDC Town Centre Regeneration Portfolio)
Rt Hon Sir John Hayes MP
School Heads of Art
Spalding High School
Sally Harrison (former Manager South Holland Centre) Nick Snooks (former Manager of Hill’s Department Store) Boston College (Spalding Manager)
Council Member of Gentlemen’s Society (Heather Violett) Rex Sly (local author and authority on the history of the fens) Spalding Folk Club
The idea for the Market Art Project goes back ten years or more. It arose out of two negatives. That, unlike many other towns, Spalding had virtually no public art to add interest to its centre. And that very few younger residents or newcomers in our expanding estates would have any notion that, within living memory still, the town centre itself was a weekly livestock market, full of jostling animals bellowing and bleating and the hypnotic patter of auctioneers and farmyard smells everywhere. Sheep in the Sheepmarket, cattle in New Road, pigs in Red Lion Street. This key part of our heritage needs to be known. Hence the proposed scheme, which will reduce both negatives.
Everyone the project has been put to has liked it. In a Lincolnshire Free Press campaign a few years ago appealing for “Big Ideas” for the regeneration of the town centre The Market Art Project was selected as the winner by the adjudicating panel. But it was only with the arrival of Transported Arts in 2013 that the dream became a possibility, with their expertise in community arts and access to funding from Arts Council England. They adopted the project as part of their On Your Doorstep programme, whereby local groups and organisations are helped to commission work by artists, designers and sculptors to improve public spaces, making them more interesting, attractive and cared for. We have been working in partnership with Transported since then.
Neal French’s sculpture The Bakers is in store. We hope to site it in Swan Walk with trees, turning a bare, bleak space without character into an attractive place with a clear identity on one of the main pedestrian routes into the town centre. The planning records show that some such landscaping was envisaged when Swan Walk was created in 2013, but it has never been carried out.
Our proposed project is The Market Art Project. More particularly, its completion.
Although parts are already in place, it has been a rather slow process so far. The UK Shared Prosperity Fund, however, offers the opportunity to speed it to a successful conclusion. We believe its benefits will spread further than the physical enhancement of the town centre.
As with so many other towns, on-line shopping and edge-of-town supermarkets and an out-of-town mall have undermined the retail vitality of Spalding town centre – witness its empty shops and others converted to non-retail use. This sad decline is one of the most frequent topics of letters to the local press. “Shabby, lifeless, depressing,” they say. “This is no longer a town we can feel proud of.”
The Market Art Project has the potential to reawaken some of that former pride. First, because of the sheer presence of quality public art in the centre, something special. Then because of the regular reminder of how important we were – and are – at the hub of the nation’s food supplies. And fun, too, the animals, especially if you have young children with you and a camera or smart phone. Footfall starts to increase.
Spalding is something of a poor relation compared with Boston or Stamford. No magnificent Stump or shipping, no honey-coloured Georgian streets and the magnet of appearing on TV in period dramas. Our assets – riverside and Ayscoughfee Hall and Gardens – are not sufficiently eye-catching. If we are to compete, the town needs something different, special, unique. The Market Art Project has that potential, too. ‘The Sculpture Town’, ‘The Market Art Town’, ‘From Field to Fork Trail’. The art works will provide ready-made subjects for tourist brochure photographs and backgrounds for Look North interviews. Footfall increases further; empty shops find tenants.
The Pumpkin Parade and the revived Flower Parade have showed that with flair and imagination Spalding can pull in the crowds. The prospective River Carnival would surely do the same. They have our full support, but of their nature they are one-day or one-weekend annual events. The fundamental need is for something that is there all the year round and big and striking enough to pull in visitors and so begin to revive the retail activity of the town centre, which in turn would pull in shoppers from the surrounding villages who would otherwise have gone elsewhere.
So far as we are aware the Market Art Project is the only town centre regeneration project that has yet come forward that is big enough and striking and compact enough to make a tangible visual impact and to go on functioning as a draw for years to come. A couple of new planters and improved toilets and direction signs are unlikely to excite Springfields visitors to include Spalding town centre in their South Holland visit.
We are asking the Council to think big in a similar way to their thinking big about leisure facilities on the Castle Field. Via the first two stages of The Market Art Project we have put over £30,000 into the regeneration of the town centre, money raised through an appeal to our members and well-wishers and grants made possible through our partnership with Transported Arts. Add to this the (unknown) value of The Bakers statue, donated by Addo Foods in response to our request when they closed down their Fulney bakery.
Public Art does not come cheap. An estimate to complete the Market Art Project comes in at £100k - £150k. The lower sum would cover the cost of an art work and installation for each of the following: sheep, cattle, pigs, horses, poultry and dairy produce. The larger sum would provide, first, for a large mosaic or mural montage (above Superdrug?) pulling the whole project together. Secondly, for an attempt to achieve the holy grail of getting Springfields visitors to visit Spalding itself as well on their day out. This was always held out as of one of the benefits of allowing the Springfields factory outlet development, but it has never materialised. One idea might be to have a striking ‘market art’ statue or feature in Springfields itself, as a sort of trailer for the main show in Spalding, together with four or five e-advertising installations within the concourse featuring the attractions of the town.
The Society would continue to work in close partnership with Transported Arts and with the Council.
What would success look like?
We welcome feedback on our proposals and if you would like to support us in turning this vision into reality, please contact us.