In Autumn 2022, I joined artist Jill Impey and poet Jean Atkin to work on a project for Meadow Arts to deliver an engagement programme in parallel with the exhibition Monument to the Vanquished at the Hive in Shrewsbury.
Over four sessions, we worked with young artists from the Wednesday afternoon Art Club, part of the MYCollege programme at The Hive and facilitated by Stephanie Kelly.
We explored the themes of boundaries, enclosure/exclusion, land ownership and access in the context of the Town Walls in Shrewsbury and the town’s history. To help guide the project and make links with national and historical links to land access, colonialism, equal rights and industrial revolution, we created a timeline. Participants and visitors to the gallery were able to refer to this throughout the project.
I am interested in the rights and freedoms of people. Because that’s very important for independence…
…I was saying about this, films or certain art forms, where the art is shared among a load of collaborators. And I think it’s a bit like this. Like, it’s more like journey through the history of Shrewsbury.Ethan
In our first session, we walked around a section of the Town Walls gathering inspiration and investigating the history of the wall and adjacent structures and buildings.
Ridiculous as it sounds, I would never have thought of taking a group out for a walk, to gather information and materials and inspiration, and it really worked well.Stephanie Kelly, Art Club facilitator
Well, there were times where I was drawing, I kind of didn’t know where or when, I was….a picture or what to draw, but now it’s kind of given my art a kind of ..has put it into new dimensions. So it’s kind of furthered my creativity in some ways.Douglas
Subsequent sessions comprised poetry and creative writing led by Jean Atkin, followed by drawing and printmaking led by Jill Impey.
I like to create an original piece. So I like to put my own energy into it. Yeah. I prefer a blank sheet and then just be expressive, collage doesn’t have that expressiveness. While printmaking, I liked and that was quite, much more creative. But again, it was really interesting. All the techniques, I learned new medium. And yeah, that was interesting.Ethan
I completed the project by working with the group to assemble a series of collaged blocks and a relief artwork for mounting in the Showcase exhibition. This was displayed at the Hive from December through until 10th February 2023.
Helped me be more creative. Yeah, at the beginning, I was a little naked in my political beliefs so to speak. The sort of creative restraints throughout this whole thing, has given me a bit more of a, an appreciation for the use of metaphor.Alex
I’ve felt that I’ve been able to share the work that you’ve done. And I really enjoyed doing that. And I found that kind of interesting, in terms of enclosure and ownership and owning the land and owning the town and then putting a fence around it….we’ve shared …amongst us.Kate Green, Meadow Arts
MyCollege at the Hive
MYCollege works creatively to boost confidence, encourage connection and get 16–30 year olds living in Shropshire, Telford & Wrekin believing that “they can”. Specifically designed to support those experiencing transitory challenges in life and help them gain independence. Participants aim to learn new skills, make connections with others, explore ideas, build confidence and have fun. Access by referral, for example from: adult mental health team, care leaver support team, education pastoral care team, young adult carer teams.
Monument to the Vanquished
Over two years artist Leah Gordon and researcher Annabel Edwards will explore how the historic events of land enclosure and the resulting struggles ended people’s common rights to land; they will show that what started in the sixteenth century, still impacts the landscape and its access today. By illustrating and remembering events in memory of the ‘vanquished’ peasants, the project will also explore how understanding enclosure, the Industrial Revolution as well as the American and Caribbean plantation system is essential to understand the systems and politics of our current time.
At the centre of the work, like a rallying standard, is an unrealised sketch of 1525 by Renaissance German artist Albrecht Dürer’s ‘Monument to the Vanquished Peasants’ which gives its name to the project.
The Enclosure Acts, thousands of Parliamentary Bills passed between 1604 -1914, marked the end of people’s common rights to land, passing them to the exclusive use of a landowner.
Protests against enclosure became common throughout Europe during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. In his 1525 ‘Monument to the Vanquished Peasants’, the German Renaissance artist Albrecht Dürer commemorated the bloody defeat of peasant revolts. This etching is a diagram for an ambitious column that includes livestock, agriculture and topped by the image of a peasant stabbed in the back. It remained a sketch and the piece was never realised.
MONUMENT TO THE VANQUISHED | PART I – THE COMMONERS
Today there are 1.3 million acres of common land in England and Wales. Artists Leah Gordon and Annabel Edwards identified pockets of common land in Shropshire and took pictures of those who still hold common rights there. These could be the rights to right to graze animals or collect firewood. The black and white photographs, made on an analogue medium-format camera were then hand-tinted, imbuing them with a magical, mystical air, a snapshot back to the 17th Century. The photos are accompanied by personal stories, the commoner’s status of the sitters as well as explorations of the local history and myths of the land.