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Willingdon Community School - Our Space Pavilion

  • Date: 25 March 2010
  • Artform: Visual arts
  • Area: South East
Our Space Pavilion Our Space Pavilion, Will Nash

Our Space Pavilion is a red canopied structure that resides in the courtyard at Willingdon Community School in East Sussex. Newly constructed in April 2008, it is a place where people are invited to sit on a concentric wire mesh bench, which is stuffed with granite rock, yet blooming with thyme. There, they can talk, eat lunch or simply chill out, sheltered by 15 red circular umbrellas fixed on 30 galvanised steel poles.

The story of how this pavilion was created is not a simple one, as it involved a sculptor, architects, an entire school and a community. Our Space wasn't simply a pavilion, but a two-year art project that used a variety of techniques to survey a local community, which then informed the making of the pavilion. This included a photo booth, an online memorybank, a school trip to measure the Long Man of Wilmington, animation, sound design and performance workshops, and a writing competition at the school.

The Our Space project was initiated by Marina Castledine, Community Arts Manager at the school. She posed a series of questions about the spaces around the school in an art project called In+visible, which received an Art Plus Development Award in 2006. The Art Plus scheme was a joint initiative between Arts Council England, South East and South East England Development Board to promote innovation in public art commissioning.

In+visible became the foundation for Our Space - it identified the school's barren concrete courtyard space as the centre for a sculpture and instigated further research into who this space belonged to. Our Space then brought in sculptor Will Nash, and Lewes architects BBM Sustainable Design, to design and create the communal space. They also involved other experts to fulfill this project's potential including photographer Anthony Carr, the local Archeological Society, structural engineer Tom Bedford of BEP Consulting Engineers Ltd and S&G Construction Ltd.

Will Nash's inspiration for the pavilion's design was neighbouring ancient monument, the Long Man of Wilmington. Coincidentally the Long Man is also what the school's logo is based. The Our Space team gathered measurements of individuals' height and arm span, which could be submitted on Our Space cards or via a specially devised photo booth, in which all 718 participants were asked to stand with their arms outstretched like the Long Man himself. The photos became an animated film by Anthony Carr, while all of the measurements became raw data for Will Nash's seated sculpture.

'Our Space has been a fantastic project to watch develop,' said Stephanie Fuller, Head of Development, Arts Council England, South East, 'particularly the way the project created lots of opportunities for many people to participate, whilst also allowing the artist to retain creative control. It is an inspirational example of how a project can aspire to excellence.'

Our Space was funded through Grants for the arts from Arts Council England, South East. The school received £51,000 to oversee the entire project, with additional funding support from East Sussex Councty Council.

If you'd like to learn more about the project, go to the blog or see the book Our Space (ISBN 978-0-9563358-0-7).