Airship sculpture inspired by words and language of Shortstown Primary School

The artist Paul Pibworth worked closely with the pupils at Shortstown Primary to create the unique sculpture

The pupils of Shortstown Primary School in Cardington worked with a local artist to create a unique sculpture to reflect their town’s historical association with airships using their own words and phrases.

Culture Challenge artist and sculptor, Paul Pibworth, hosted a workshop with children from the school and asked them what emotions they thought the airships would have inspired in the people that travelled in them.

The words the children chose were then translated into various languages, all of which are spoken by children of Shortstown Primary School.

Paul said: “I was lucky enough to spend a few days with the children of Shortstown Primary School and during this time, we asked the question ‘what do you think the emotions of the occupants of the airship were?’

“The shape of the airship R101 was always going to be the form. Wanting to give a nod to the engineering structure behind the shape led us to having the window, which let us take a look inside at my representation of the airframe.

Paul said that choosing the text being recreated on the sculpture was simple.

“I listened to the words and phrases in the different languages and took a look at the written text too. If I liked the look and the sound, I used it.”

Paul then carefully etched each word into the sculpture by hand, adding a translation beneath in English, stating the meaning and telling us the language being illustrated.

“All of the words and phrases came from the children, see if you can look and find a favourite.”

The sculpture is part of a wider Airship Dreams project hosted by Bedford Creative Arts, including the Escaping Gravity installation at the Higgins Bedford.

“One of our goals was to engage the local community in the engineering heritage of the local area, and our links to the airship industry,” said Elaine Midgley, director of Bedford Creative Arts.

“Children and young people are a core part of this community, and our education programme is designed to engage with schools in a way that supports their curriculum needs.

“The workshop with Paul really inspired the children at Shortstown and they were thrilled to see their input in the artwork itself.”

Denise Cottam, Head Teacher at Shortstown Primary School said that children had found the opportunity to collaborate with an artist very exciting and the R101 is proudly displayed in Adam’s Garden at the school.

“The whole R101 project was an amazing experience and to have such a significant piece of artwork, in the school, is a privilege,” she said.

The sculpture was specifically funded by the Gale Family Trust.

Airship Dreams: Escaping Gravity is funded by National Lottery Heritage Fund, Arts Council England, Gale Family Trust, The Harpur Trust, Bedford College, Airship Heritage Trust and Bedford Borough Council.

The full exhibition this at the Higgins until this Sunday (28 November), with the community exhibition running to 25 March 2022.

If any other local schools are interested in the project they can access a wealth of educational resources here.

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