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Launch of new public art project in Mill Road Cemetery

Cambridge City Council is delighted to announce that ‘Bird Stones’ designed by the artist Gordon Young will be launched by the Mayor, Councillor Paul Saunders and The Venerable John Beer, Archdeacon of Cambridge at Mill Road Cemetery on Saturday 22nd February at 11am.

Gordon Young was inspired to create ‘Bird Stones’ after visiting the cemetery. He described this visit: ‘For the first time in many years I found myself listening to bird song, whilst walking about at first but needing to concentrate on its diversity I found I had to sit and concentrate, Without any knowledge of who was singing what I was surprised by how richly rewarded I was by the feathered residents of Mill Road Cemetery. The artwork has in some ways become a monument to their ephemeral endeavours.’

It was this concept for the celebration of birds and birdsong, which has been developed into the artworks, which are comprised of a series of sculptural columns or ‘Bird Stones’ that include ‘bird baths’ and perches. Every column celebrates a different bird species and also includes a text to pay tribute to the avian residents of the cemetery. Each stone has text, which is bespoke to each stone and location. The text includes a translation of birdsong into phonics; and an extract from the Kings James bible or a poem relating to birds.

The choice of which birds to celebrate for the project was informed by a series of public engagement events, which included identifying what birds were singing and where. The Council would like to thank all the local residents who have been involved in these events.

The artist has also taken the opportunity to make use of the wood from the felled Western Red Cedar, from Holy Trinity Church in Cambridge city centre, as part of this project. Holy Trinity is one of the parishes with a burial plot in Mill Road Cemetery.

Mill Road Cemetery is a collection of burial plots, each owned by a central Cambridge parish. Now closed for new burials, the cemetery is maintained by Cambridge City Council, and managed by a committee representing the churches. This art commission has been a collaboration between the Council, the Church of England and the Friends of Mill Road Cemetery.

Councillor Andrea Reiner, Executive Councillor for Public Places, said, ‘The artist has done a beautiful job of integrating the historical elements of the cemetery with the contemporary life that dwells there. By reflecting birdsong and verse on the stones, he has also enhanced the cemetery as a place of contemplation. His work is a beautiful addition to this space.’

The Revd. Canon Dr John Binns, Vicar of Great St Mary’s Church, Cambridge said, ‘Mill Road Cemetery is an amenity enjoyed by many people in Cambridge. These wonderful sculptures by Gordon Young, inspired by the Cemetery and its abundant bird life, celebrate the Cemetery as a place of nature as well as history and remembrance. They are the outcome of a valued partnership between the Council, the churches with plots in the Cemetery and the Friends of Mill Road Cemetery.’

Diana Cook (Chair of the Friends of Mill Road Cemetery) said, ‘Gordon Young's sculptures remind us of the many birds who depend on the cemetery as a source of food and refuge. Equally importantly, they provide small drinking wells on their tops; such a welcome relief for birds and bees in the summer months when the rain stops, the puddles dry up and they have nowhere left to find water. And then there are the lovely poems, inscribed along the sides of these elegant but unobtrusive installations, which give us cause to stop for a while to read and contemplate our surroundings. Many will undoubtedly enjoy this addition to the cemetery for many years to come.’

This public art commission is funded from S106 developer contributions, which can only be used for the commissioning of new public artworks.

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