The project aim is all about our legacy. We have worked with a diversity of groups and sought their input both to the design and creation of our new facilities. The ongoing engagement work with schools will allow the next generation to learn all about what we are through the art, spiritually, history or a combination of all of these.
Part of the money received from the Heritage Lottery Fund was used to appoint a Community Engagement Officer whose role was to expand the diversity of visitors by reaching out to those who would not necessarily engage with us.
We worked with Tedworth House, a recovery centre run by Help for Heroes for those injured in recent conflicts, students from Sparsholt horticultural college, St Mungo’s, a charity to help the homeless and Thrive, a horticultural chairty which uses gardening to bring about positive changes in the lives of people living with disabilities or ill health.
These groups played an instrumental part in the planning, creation and use of the space not only for their own needs but also for our visitors to enjoy.
We have undertaken a lot of work in the education arena as the next generation are an important part of our legacy. Whilst we have always welcomed school visits we wanted to make far better use of the fabulous resources we have here as an educational tool. In many ways we can offer across the curriculum material from art, history, spirituality, architecture and the environment.
In the first year of the project we worked with the Corn Exchange in Newbury and local schools to create a series of dances inspired by the imagery in the paintings within the Chapel. The incredibly powerful responses were performed publically at the Corn Exchange in Newbury in July 2014.
In 2015 we saw a number of projects covering art, writing and music. Working with professional sculptor Chris Cudlip over 100 pupils from local schools visited the Chapel and made individual images on strips of cardboard which were then transferred (by carving and use of relief sculpture) on to specially made red clay bricks to which slips were then applied. The fired bricks were then arranged around the back garden as a piece called “Brick Array”.
Another project again bringing many children from different schools to the Chapel was for them to understand how the Chapel came into being and what the paintings depict in order for them to work with creative writer Matt West to create their own piece of work in response to the paintings.
On November 11th 2015 our usual Armistice Day service was enhanced by the performance of a newly-written piece of music, “Forgotten Dead”. Working with Alton College, Hampshire Music Service and composer Pande Shahov, a gifted and talented student composed and conducted a work representing her response to the chapel. The composition for a 5-piece brass ensemble was in four parts:-
The first, “Sergeant Vickery” was based upon “Convoy Arriving with the Wounded” and as Ellen said “ this movement creates a mocking tone of Sergeant Vickery as Spencer disliked him, as well as the solemnness and procession of the wounded soldiers entering the hospital”.
The second movement “Holy Box” related to all of the religious simbolism in the paintings.
Of the third movement “The Everyday” – Ellen said “ .. this is another all-round reflection of the paintings although “Sorting and Moving Kit Bags” is the best example of what I was trying to represent”.
The final movement “The Resurrection”, including Ellen’s own adaption of “The Last Post” complemented the vision behind Spencer’s monumental east-wall painting.
The education work extended beyond working with pupils when we hosted a one day Teachers' Continuing Education Development Programme led by Susan Coles through National Association for Education in Art and Design, the leading national authority for art, craft and design through all phases of education in the United Kingdom. Twelve teachers from both primary and secondary schools looked at how to help pupils make real and meaningful links with their own creative work and how to engage young people in generating ideas by thinking as well as making. The day was very much hands-on with workshops to demonstrate and practice good ways of engaging children.
The comminity engagement work will continues beyond the end of the project into the years ahead.