Cotford St Luke Primary School
Cotford St Luke, Taunton
In November 2022 artists and designers Denman + Gould were commissioned by Somerset Council to create a new permanent public artwork for Cotford St Luke, a village near Taunton. The project has been developed in consultation with Cotford St Luke Parish Council.
The project will create a pond dipping platform and a series of five screens in English Sweet Chestnut for the forest school area of Cotford St Luke Primary School. The wooden screens will upgrade an existing dilapidated shelter, doubling as both habitat creation and a seating area for the children during Forest School lessons every Monday. The designs are inspired by the architectural plans for the Tone Vale Psychiatric Hospital, which the village grew up around.
The project is funded by a section 106 sum from a housing developer, held by Somerset Council, specifically for public art in Cotford St Luke. As the developer had already completed their development, it was agreed to broaden the potential site for the project to consider other locations around the village. With the artists we explored where might make the most sense for a new artwork. Somewhere most people could see and access, where it would benefit a large number of local residents, but would still be ‘owned’ by the community and the landowner, who would also need to be responsible for its upkeep.
Cotford St Luke Primary School, the only school in the village, is a thriving community with around 260 pupils. The school was keen to be a project partner, and following a site visit with the artists it quickly became apparent that the forest school area and pond could benefit hugely from an upgrade. This chimed with the interests of the artists in the natural world and their past work that has often resulted in structures for habitat creation.
To develop their designs, artists Eleanor and Russell visited the Somerset Heritage Archive to find out more about the Tone Vale Psychiatric Hospital, which formed the starting point for the village’s development and at one point was a 290 acre site. Today the remaining historic hospital buildings have been converted into apartments. Inspired by the geometry of the hand painted architectural plans of the hospital building, the artists’ proposal uses this geometry as the inspiration for the design of the screens. The artists have been influenced by the Japanese kumiko woodworking technique, which doesn’t use any nails.
The artists ran several workshops with children at the school where pupils were invited to think about what creatures might use the animal habitat screens, what they would like the pond to look like and why.
The artwork will be made and installed at the school by the end of October 2023.
About the artists
Denman + Gould is an art and design studio based in Dorset, run by Eleanor Goulding and Russell Denman. They specialise in public and community-based projects. Together they collaborate on a range of projects as far wide-ranging as public installations, film, furniture, sculpture, textiles and jewellery. Recent projects have included From the Forest to the Sea, a series of sculptural installations at Lydney Harbour in Dorset; HAVENa wildlife based installation at the South Bank Centre in London and Blueprint, a research and development project in Ryde on the Isle of Wight exploring the landscape of Ryde through a series of public workshops.