A NEW public art work celebrating the railway heritage of Romsey ward is set to be unveiled during the Mill Road Winter Fair this weekend.
Cambridge City Council commissioned local artists Harry Gray and Will Hill, to design and produce the artwork – a giant ‘R’-shaped sculpture comprising a steel framework representing railway tracks, and solid bronze ‘sleepers’.
The work celebrates the history of the area and forms part of a wider set of improvements to the small public park on the corner of Cavendish Road and Mill Road.
The sculptural ‘R’ is a Clarendon typeface letter derived from a rubbing of a nearby Victorian street sign. Within its shape, the ‘sleepers’ list departure points and destinations of railway journeys that have been important in the lives of local residents of all ages.
The journeys depicted on the ‘R’ range from the local to the international, and show the diversity of geographical backgrounds characteristic of residents in Romsey. The place names have been cast in a font specially designed for the project and named ‘Romsey Railway’.
The Romsey area of Cambridge has been historically associated with the railway since it was first developed in the 19th Century to provide homes for railway workers.
Cambridge-based educational production company HistoryWorks helped gather journey information from local schoolchildren as part of the project, and have created new lyrics, soundscapes and songs based on Romsey’s railway history called ‘Rhyme, Rhythm and Railway.’
These will be performed at a free public concert at 11am on Saturday 1 December at St Philip’s Church Centre, 185 Mill Road during the Mill Road Winter Fair. Everyone is welcome to attend and join in with the music.
The ‘Romsey R’ sculpture will then be officially unveiled at its permanent home on the corner of Mill Road and Cavendish Road at 12 noon by the Mayor of Cambridge, Cllr Nigel Gawthrope, and Cllr Anna Smith, Deputy Leader of the Council.
Cllr Smith said: “As a local councillor and historian, I’m especially excited by this project. It’s wonderful that both the performance and the sculpture reflect some of what is so important to us in Romsey – the railway and its history. I’m also thrilled that so many local people, including children, have contributed to the work.
“Mill Road Fair is always a wonderful community celebration, and to have the unveiling during the fair makes it even more special. The new art work really feels like something made for and by us in the local community.”
Harry Gray said: “Many of my public art projects take place far from my Cambridge studios off Mill Road, so it has been a real delight to create the Romsey R with Will Hill and to make something very special for the place where we both work and live.”
Will Hill said: “Having lived in Romsey for the past 25 years, while teaching at Anglia Ruskin and working on projects that are more often national or international in nature, I wanted us to make a work that engages with this unique community in all its diversity, and explores meaningful connections between the past and the present.”
Helen Weinstein, Creative Director of HistoryWorks, said: “This project has been enormously rewarding to see the community engage with the railway history of the area and to be creative with words, song, rhythm and actions. We’ve been singing with entire schools and community choirs in the area, so the halls have been humming, literally, with the new Cambridge songs. The project has been a great way to bring back a connectivity and pride in the railway past of the Romsey area.”
The project has been funded through S106 developer contributions of £50k, specifically allocated for commissioning public art.