An ambitious community arts project to create a huge Mercian Mosaic has taken a big step forward thanks to the efforts of enthusiastic and creative members of the public who took part in a series of workshops during the Easter school holidays.
It is estimated that around 150 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 400 tiles finished during the half-term workshop in February and the Easter holidays, to take the project to near completion. Children and adults picked up pens and paintbrushes to create various elements of the mosaic including flowers, fish, ducks, geese, butterflies and life-size Anglo-Saxon warrior 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 in July.
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 went really well. I had the pleasure of working with some lovely children and their families. Teamwork was definitely the order of the day and it was great to see so many adults taking the initiative to get involved and help make it a creative experience for their youngsters.
“We collated and embellished the giant ‘Coin’ sections that Landau Forte Sixth Form had painted, as well as completing many life size Anglo Saxon Warriors. An extra addition to the Mosaic is a small tribute to the Centenary of the RAF by creating some small silhouettes of aircraft in the sky. One hundred years of Girl Guiding in Tamworth has been led by Christine Harris and her team of brownies and guides
“Some people believe that Aethelflaed’s grandmother, mother and daughter would all appear to be ‘women of substance’. It would seem neglectful therefore not to make a nod to the Centenary of Votes for Women so there are plans to squeeze this into the design somewhere too!”
There is still more to be done on the project and if anyone wants to get involved they are invited to the next workshop during St George’s Day celebrations on April 21. Sessions will take place once more in the Ankerside Shopping Centre unit from 10am to 12pm and from 1pm to 3pm.
Jeff Wigley, Ankerside Shopping Centre manager, said: “Following the successful Mercian Mosaic workshops during February half term, we were delighted to see them return during the Easter break.
“As it gets closer to the projects big unveiling in the castle grounds, Maggie’s unit at Ankerside is looking more fantastic by the day with Anglo-Saxon pieces decorating the windows and walls, and we can’t wait to see the finished mosaic this summer.”