06th November 2018
Rowntree Park remembers
Rosie Bentley from the Friends of Rowntree Park writes a guest blog post for us:
After the First World War, Joseph Rowntree bought land and created Rowntree Park as a gift to York citizens, in memory of the Rowntree employees who had served in the war. Since then, Rowntree Park has become a much loved local community space and continues to benefit all those who use it.
In 2018, with the centenary of the end of the First World War coming up, the Friends of Rowntree Park wanted to remember again all those who had served. We met in March to discuss an appropriate commemoration of the centenary, and these discussions developed into a creative community project. We always felt that it was important to personalise our installation, with a figure of a former cocoa worker, without weapons, reading news from home, in a moment of peace in the midst of the chaos of war.
Our remembrance project has four strands:
Small rocks and pebbles (Remembrance Rocks) have been decorated with World War themes, and hidden for children to find.
A huge wall of knitted and crocheted poppies now flows from the café, down to a willow soldier who sits in contemplation; the poppies are red for Remembrance, white for peace and green for a green future in the park. Dozens of local people were involved in crafting the poppies, making them at home or attending several poppy-making workshops in the Reading Café and in local pubs. The willow soldier was designed by Leilah Vyner from Dragon Willow, and represents one of our local 'cocoa worker' soldiers.
We also worked with a local art collective ‘Northern Electric’, who recorded local people talking about their memories of the park, creating an audio trail which can be accessed through an app. Local families contributed their family photographs and artefacts (as well as making poppies), and these have gone into the café, alongside the Local History Group’s banners.
“It is a very sweet tribute to all the fallen of WWI”, “just beautiful” and "WOW! This is beautiful! I'd already photographed the seated, woven figure, but I had no idea it was going to be part of this larger scene. It's a marvellous piece of work. Thank you.” These early responses to the poppy wall and willow soldier are gratifying, and we’re looking forward to getting more comments from visitors.
Further details of the project are available on the Friends’ website (http://www.rowntreepark.org.uk/), as well as through Facebook and Twitter.