Bristol and Bath Railway Path
Mangotsfield Folly is a 12-month creative programme of site-specific outdoor artist commissions developed in collaboration with architect Rob Elkins of Artel 31. The project activates the disused Mangotsfield railway station platform on the Bristol and Bath Railway Path, a 13 mile traffic-free route maintained by Sustrans for walking, wheeling and cycling.
The creative programme has been developed around a new temporary Folly structure sited in the former station garden, and an outdoor table designed and built from reclaimed materials by Artel 31 at the old station booking office at Mangotsfield Station. The Folly was installed in April 2022, with the table to be installed later in the summer.
Six artists have been commissioned for Mangotsfield, including street artists and illustrators Lucas Antics, poet and writer Holly Corfield Carr, printmaker Letterpress Collective, photographer Charles Emerson, The Straight & Narrow Sign Co and Feral Practice, an artist who creates installations and audio-visual works. The artist commissions and Folly transform the area, creating an atmospheric resting place and free temporary arts venue for the local community to explore. Visitors to the Folly are encouraged to travel sustainably to the site by walking, wheeling or cycling.
The creative programme is rooted in the creativity of the region, with most participating artists being based locally in Bristol, Somerset and Wiltshire. Much of the programme of creative commissions is inspired by the natural world and the creatures and plants living in the vicinity of Mangotsfield.
LISTENING STATION BY FERAL PRACTICE
Listening Station has been developed by Feral Practice through their ongoing artist residency at Old Mangotsfield Station. Feral Practice (artist Fiona MacDonald) is exploring the biodiversity of the former station garden, including the diversity of human presence and histories at Mangotsfield, together with those of other-than-human species. Working with local residents, Bristol based naturalists and scientists, Feral Practice is creating opportunities for engagement and education at Mangotsfield, and collecting personal stories from local residents. These will act as research towards and material for a new site-specific audio drama. Fiona says:
‘The old Mangotsfield Station was built for travel. The theme of meetings and partings, arrivals and departures lends itself to thinking across species boundaries. It includes for example the movement and nesting habits of birds, and how breeding pairs reconnect after time spent apart. While modern humans use Satnav and timetables, birds navigate by the sun, the stars, and the earth’s magnetic field. Rooted species borrow the wind and the wings of other species, evolving fascinating strategies including mimicry and narcotics to tempt insects into helping them find a mate.
The theme of arrivals and departures also evokes the losses and gains of species that Avon has experienced due to climate change, habitat loss and other factors. Until recently, the old station was illuminated on summer nights by the magical greenish love-lights of glowworms. So focused are adult glowworms on meeting a mate that they never eat. While this is a strategy humans cannot emulate, we can all empathise with the excitement of love that makes our appetites temporarily disappear.’
MURAL BY LUCAS ANTICS
A mural by Bristol based street artists and illustrators Lucas Antics (Alex Lucas and Paul Fearnside) was installed in the interior of the Folly in June 2022. The artwork features the tiny, everyday creatures and wild plants (including goldenrod, Timothy grass, buttercups and nettles) that live along the railway path. But there’s a twist – the creatures, including elephant hawk moths, zebra spiders, slugs, cockchafers and snails are riding bikes, playing musical instruments and showing off their circus skills. Alex Lucas was inspired by the anthropomorphized 19thcentury illustrations of the French caricaturist Grandville featured in ‘Scenes de la vie privee et publique des animaux’ published in 1842. The artists are keen for children and families to visit the installation and see if they can spot and name all of the creatures and plants.
HOLLY CORFIELD CARR & THE LETTERPRESS COLLECTIVE
Poet and writer Holly Corfield Carr will be collaborating with Nick Hand of the Letterpress Collective to produce a participatory poem based on the card game Patience which invites those travelling along the Bristol and Bath Railway Path to pause and play with ideas of waiting, rest and survival. The poem will be printed on site within the foundations of the former Booking Office at Mangotsfield station with Nick Hand’s bespoke Printing Bike. The Printing Bike will be at Mangotsfield on four dates, starting in the summer of 2022, the rules of the game changing with each season.
Straight and Narrow Signs’ bespoke hand painted signage designs were inspired by the history of the railway, and photographer Charles Emerson has been invited to document the project as it develops over the course of the year.
EMERGING ARTIST COMMISSIONS
We have commissioned three emerging artists to create new work for display in and around the Folly and table over the course of the year. The three appointed artists are: artist and gardener Jo Ball, Comfy Club Collective, and Lauren Ainley, a choreographer and dancer.
The project aims to surprise, entertain, excite and challenge local residents, reinventing what may be a familiar but unexplored place and its history through the new art commissions and structures.
The project is funded by Emersons Green Town Council and Arts Council England, with in kind support from Sustrans (who lease the inner garden on the platform) and with the consent of South Gloucestershire Council. Materials for the construction of the Folly have been kindly donated by RockPanel, BBS Cladding and Hither Garden Design. Additional graphic design was by City Edition Studio.
You can follow the project on Instagram: @mangotsfield_folly or visit the project website: www.mangotsfieldfolly.uk
You can find more information about the route by visiting:
For a direct link to the route on OS Maps visit:
Sustrans’ Director for England South James Cleeton says in his letter of support (February 2021):
‘The [Folly] art programme will really help to activate the structure and the disused station platform, while providing a positive opportunity for new and regular path users to enjoy art in a different context. In the past Sustrans has had a national art commissioning programme, Art and the Travelling Landscape and we recognise the value of creative projects in this particular context. Placemaking is at the heart of our work and the proposal is a great opportunity to renew public interest and enhance this key location.‘
Emersons Green Town Council say in their letter of support (January 2021):
‘The Town Council would be delighted to see this exciting project happen in our local area and feel there is great potential for this project….[the art programme] will provide an entertaining diversion to the cycle path, allowing users to benefit from local art whilst also encouraging exercise. Opportunities for enjoying the arts, such as visiting galleries, has been significantly reduced during the pandemic, so an outdoor installation such as this is particularly welcome. We are really looking forward to some exciting and innovative artist commissions.’