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‘Progress With Light Steps’  2024. 

Collaborative project with Helen Mather

As part of the group show 'Creating Place 2', The Turnpike, Leigh.

Acrylic (Saved from landfill), printed vinyl, metal chains, sound

The stained-glass windows of Leigh town hall and the Speakman window in St. Mary’s church proclaim and monumentalise civic pride, encapsulating the founding stately families and industries that form the identity of the town. 

We were inspired by these emblems to explore the idea of a new heritage for Leigh; that of nature in a post-industrial landscape. We ask how people can connect with this future-forming legacy, and how they might find identity and hope in burgeoning nature as they might once have through the lost industries that forged community cohesion.   

We invited local people on a walk with ornithologist Dave Wilson in Bickershaw Nature Reserve, the site of the former colliery. There we recorded conversations sparked by people’s connections to the site, and foraged materials to be developed into visual and sound collages. The artwork was further developed in a collage and conversation workshop, where mottos began to emerge alongside motifs, creating symbolic ‘windows’ that express people’s feelings about this new natural heritage.

The final shield shapes, taken directly from the windows of the town hall, are exploded and fragmented; describing an identity in flux and in the process of being reassembled. 

Each shield represents the key elements of Bickershaw: Earth from its mountainous coal rucks to the plants creating new soil by processing the poisonous metals left from industrial waste; Air from the migratory routes the open space allows and the clean air it gives people to breathe; and Water from the new flashes creating incredible habitats and the flood defences created in the area.

The Speakman Window in St. Mary’s Church (opposite the Turnpike Gallery) proclaims “All these trust in their hands. They will maintain the state of the world…” and the leigh motto states “progress with steady steps”. These mottos are given new meaning in relation to Bickershaw with people assisting the natural world to reclaim its space, to mend a scarred landscape and to offer us a safer future. 

This installation presents time to reflect on these mottos and forge new meanings, Progress with Light Steps reminds us of our place in the landscape, our relationship with nature and the life-giving legacy it offers to our town.

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