What a wonderful end to the project! Over 70 people came to see us at Cowbit Bus shelter – swapping stories, bringing maps and photos down to share and transforming the humble shelter into a vibrant community space for the day – loved it!
A huge thanks to the bus shelter team Manya, Emily and Martin and everyone that was able to join us popping up over the last few days.
The images are up in the bus shelters! Ian Jones and I went out today and installed a selection of the postcard images into the 8 bus shelters in the villages:
Barrier Bank, Cowbit x 1
High Road Moulton x 2
High Road Whaplode x 2
Spalding Gate, Pinchbeck that turns into Church Street x 3
Just installed, there’s an interesting contrast between the pristine frames and the graffiti and weather worn interiors of the shelters, which I quite like. Manya and I will be bringing our brooms when we transform 4 of the shelters for the Bus Fayre events next week though…
These images will be up for the month of August, but I’m hoping to leave the frames for the community to use and fill with more creativity in the future. Maybe this could lead to a series of community curated bus shelters….let me know what you think?
Postcards are printed, bus vinyl’s couriered to Norfolk Green bus company and the Bus Fayre poster’s done. Phew!
So the images will be installed on 3 of the buses that serve the 505 Moulton and Whaplode route – Kings Lynn to Spalding – for the month of August – keep your eyes peeled. There are also postcards available for bus travellers to pick up – with a tear off section inviting people to respond to questions around village identity and buses and shelters as spaces for sharing art. Once completed these can be handed in to the driver.
Thanks to Ian and Luke at Well Plastic design for their time and patience this week!
Found out about the Whaplode riot of 1482 today, which took place in the grounds of the St Mary’s where I’ve been photographing recently. The grounds are more of a cottage garden than a graveyard, which the villagers plant and tend. There are no oppressive yew trees, and this time of year there’s a wonderful array of colourful and casual blooms lining the pathway to the Church entrance and framing the ancient stone. In the 15th Century the Abbot at Crowland was responsible for collecting Whaplode’s local taxes. When these were not used to make urgent repairs to St Mary’s the villagers asked if they could chop down the trees in the grounds and use the wood to make the repairs themselves. When the Abbot refused the villagers rioted, kidnapping the Abbot’s local steward and taking axes to the trees. So there may well have been Yew trees at one time! Hundreds of years later the Whaplode villagers still have a very real relationship with and responsibility for this place.
Just outside the village on Pinchbeck Marsh stands Pinchbeck Engine Museum, a Victorian beam engine built to fight the floods and drain the surrounding land. Ken gave me a great tour, sharing newspaper reports of the destructive floods of 1947 and stories about Charles Seymour, the last man to look after the engine. Until his retirement in 1952 Charles managed, mended and maintained the Pinchbeck steam engine for 43 years. He lived and worked on site, to stoke and run the steam engine. Ken showed me the bald wooden shelf next within a few feet of the furness where Charles would have rested on nights when he needed to keep the fire stoked 24 hours a day to keep the land from flooding. I was particularly drawn to the display of tools in one room, handmade and unique to the Fenlands, with strange shapes and stranger names – prongs for eel hunting and funny shaped scoops for ditch clearing. Ken then showed me the on site workshop, complete with forge, where Charles would have crafted some of these items and made repairs for the engine. Today this steam engine contrasts with the unmanned electric pumping station next door, but it has a new life as a museum, celebrating and sharing its contribution to the story of the Fens.
Spent a few days in Cowbit and headed for the playing field, mentioned by several Brownies and a few local young people as an important meeting place. The village has set up a Playing Field Committee to organise funds, events and improvements, with local children creating designs for new equipment. Thanks to Jonathan and Emily for their help.
Cowbit Playing Field
Cowbit has been without a shop for a while until Cowbit Village Stores was opened. So many people – young and old – were full of good things to say, particularly about Colin who serves the villagers every day – how he made home deliveries after hours to people unable to get out, how he’d slip an extra chocolate bar into your bag when you weren’t looking, how you could still buy sweets for a penny. “It’s the best shop ever!”
I had to persuade Colin to come out, and take the shot really quick between customers – but I felt it was really important for Colin and the Village Stores be represented in the project – although not the best shot I’ve taken, this image and its story sums up what I wanted this project to be about – celebrating the everyday these villages.
On my visits to Cowbit I’ve tended to always park in the layby on Barrier Bank by the Church, outside the Old Post Office, and this led me to have the pleasure of meeting and talking with Peter and Vivian Higham who live there. They both had some wonderful memories to share. Generations of Peter’s family have lived in the village, working the land and running the post office. Whilst Peter raised livestock on the fields of Cowbit Wash, Vivien dedicated 40 years to the Post Office, serving villagers until retiring in 1991.