More Than 100 Stories is a commission led by artists Sarah Butler and Nicole Mollet that explores and creatively maps the Creative People and Places programme.

Opening up the discussion about Public Art in Peterborough


On June 9th Nicole Mollett visited Peterborough Presents to attend a project update meeting concerning ‘Park Tales’, an outdoor family festival happening in August 2016 which will include five new contemporary artists’ commissions.

An artist called Lynda Phelps talking

I arrived at the Key Theatre just in time before the first presentation began. The five individual artists being commissioned were presenting their developed ideas to a group of project stakeholders, which included park rangers, Vivacity and other key partners.

As Josie Hickin, programme manager, explained to me during the break, ‘Park Tales’ is a project inspired by forgotten public artworks. Away from the centre of Peterborough there is a place called Thorpe Meadows through which the River Nene runs. It is home to a collection of unique public sculptures (see article with images which are a mixture of metal, wood and stone structures many of which sit on concrete plinths and are accompanied by a metal plaque. As explain on Vivacity website;

‘The Peterborough Sculpture Trust was set up in 1988 to carry on the work already started by the then Peterborough Development Corporation, who sought to encourage an appreciation of the arts by purchasing a selection of sculptures by British artists between 1978 and 1988. The aim was to create a reference point in time for future generations growing up in Peterborough, relating the artistic activity and aims of the best British sculptors with the style and growth of the new city.’

The local rowing club practise there in a custom built lake, there is a park run and many other sorts of regular users. However the artworks have become invisible. The sculptures are on average 30 years old, in varying states of aging and from a particular period in modern art history. The ‘posh’ ones (i.e. the artists who are now worth lots of money, Antony Gormley, Caro etc) have been put away into storage, e.g. the bronze work entitled ‘Opera Dog- by Barry Flanagan sits under the stairs at the Key Theatre. There is something enchanting about their forsakenness. It reminds me of a Paul Noble drawing or a Piranesi ruin. The moss, weeds growth and rust give them a certain battered authenticity.

Sculpture plaque for Creative, Thorpe Meadows Park

The idealised versions of a public artwork only ever exist that way in the Powerpoint presentations. The value and longevity of a realised artwork is a complex, unpredictable process with multiple uncontrollable variables which can change continuously. We artists want everyone to admire, respect and preserve the artworks we create. However time moves on, tastes changes, and artwork are also just things. Stuff in a world full of too much stuff.

So how do you engender re-enchantment in forgotten artworks? With the help of a bunch of talented new artists of course! The selected artists are Lyndall Phelps, Rich White, Jamie Gledhill, Kevin Green and Scottee. The proposed ideas ranged from floating sculptures, to hiding sculptures, to activating the existing sculpture with sounds, to creating new sculptures and secret performative experiences. I would not want to steal the reveal by entering into too much detail on each idea, but I can say with confidence that this sculpture trail will be waking up from it’s deep slumber with a spectacular jumpstart on the 20th & 21st of August!

What I can say is the fact that there was a lot of discussion about language, and how to present the new works to the public. Many of the artists want to directly engage the local community in a dialogue. Rich White talked about wanting to provoke a reaction, and create a situation in which he can find out what people truly feel about the sculptures. Kevin Green talked about handing over authorship to the community, letting them make the decisions on the final outcome. Jamie Gledhill wants to work directly with local musicians who will help record his work. As part of her project Lyndall Phelps want to encourage local residents to adopt a sculpture. Programme Manager Josie Hickin, explained the refreshingly trusting approach they have to working with the artists.

‘My role is not so much about deciding what is created, more about the language we use to promote and share the project with our audiences.’ Josie Hickin

When talking about his project Scottee answered a question I asked by saying he wanted to ‘keep the conversation open and generous’. This sentence struck a chord with me, the idea that talking about an artwork can be something that is fun and enjoyable, which anyone can take part in, not just for an elite. I think a lot of the misunderstanding and distrust in art comes, when we (the art world) use unnecessary pretentious wording to describe an artwork in order to validate it. Ultimately if the artwork is good, it does not need it, and if the artwork is terrible, like the emperor’s new clothes, anyone can see through this invisible cloth of words.


Park Tales is a free weekend of outstanding arts, sculpture, and storytelling at Thorpe Meadows, Peterborough on 20th – 21st August 2016. For more information, visit -

For more information on the park and the artists go to: Sculpture collection archive

Lyndall Phelps

Rich White

Kevin Green and Ned Scott of STORE CiC -

Jamie Gledhill