North East Connected

Leading Link reports success in the woods

Screen Shot 2016-04-11 at 08.54.04Despite torrential rain and lots of muddy feet, more than 1500 people went down to the woods to see the work that the young people from Leading Link in Bedlington together with professional artists have been working on since last summer.

County Councillor, Valerie Tyler and Kath Nisbet, Civic Head of Northumberland Council, officially opened the one-mile art trail within the popular Plessey Woods Country Park.

Cllr Nisbet said, “Bedlington now has a great new tourist attraction on their doorstep and the council and Leading Link hope that the trail will continue to be added to over the years. This is a fantastic venue for everyone to enjoy with their family with lovely walks and being able to have picnics amongst the installations”

The installations include Enchanted Hollow, Quarry Henge, Bog House Swamp, Mystical Avenue, OXO, Marra and his Bone, Cherokee Whee, Why Eye, Wood U Play and The Wise One

In addition to the main art installations, owls point the way around the trail using their wings and many animals and snakes that have been created by the young people are hidden in the trees.

The whole project, a partnership between Leading Link and Northumberland County Council, has been funded by Sita Trust to enable the young people to put their community project into action and the Foyer Federation have been running a Project Management course alongside to give them the added skill and recognition via certificates for all their hard work.  The young people have learned lifelong skills such as event management, willow weaving, wood carving, budgeting, time planning and team work

Attractions included the ever popular birds of prey where real owls and eagles could be seen together with the Falcons Rugby coaches testing agility skills of the visitors.  Local singers, dancers and musicians created the entertainment throughout the event and Radio Northumberland even added to the day recording live from the park and ride ‘TyneIdols’ double decker bus.  ISOS Housing financially supported the event with the entertainment marquee and Children’s University art activities.

John Percival from the Foyer Federation said, “Staff and young people from Leading Link should be immensely proud of what they have achieved with this project. 100’s of young people have been engaged throughout the process from the initial idea right through to installation of their piece. The results are an amazing creative space and resource for the local community to use for many years to come. This is another example of young people showing what talent they have and why we should continuing to invest in young people in the future”

Despite the rain and the mud, more than a thousand still turned out and the same again during the following days.  Plessey Woods manager, Graham Mitcheson confirmed that the park had been positively buzzing over the Easter holidays.

In the evening the rain finally stopped and the lantern parade created another experience to see the art in a different and magical way. Due to the overwhelming interest in the lanterns, Leading Link added two more over the holidays which were very well attended and enjoyed.  Lyn Horton, manager of Leading Link said, ‘the young people involved and our team are absolutely overwhelmed by the visitors fantastic reviews of the trail, it’s certainly made all that hard work worthwhile.  The young people are now excited to start planning more lantern trails and art workshops throughout the year to come.  We would also like to say a special thank you to the Plessey Woods manager and his grounds staff who went the extra mile to help us get this project ready for the launch.’

Marianne Ivin of SITA Trust says: “It’s really exciting to see young people taking such an active role in leading projects that enhance their communities. The flair and creativity that we have seen with the Plessey Wood project has been great and really helps to showcase the benefits of our funding for youth volunteering.”

Already there is a chance for the community to ‘make their mark in the park’ as the public are being invited to paint their own rounded cobble stone (approximately 9cm big) and drop it into the Lodge before May 15th.  These stones will then become part of ‘Cobbled Avenue’, the fourteenth art installation within the trail.

The art installations are permanent and can be seen anytime and most can be seen from the bridle paths for disabled access.

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