THE RAILWAY CHILDREN
Ribble Valley pupils have been taking part in a collaborative arts project encouraging commuters and schoolchildren to use a local railway station and take the train. Jade Jones finds out more
“I find it incredibly rewarding and inspiring to work with people and share their ideas and stories,” says award-winning community artist Karen Allerton.
“I thrive off the many effects that art has on its participants.”
Karen, from Manchester, recently experienced just that when she visited Ribblesdale High School in Clitheroe. Her commission from Connecting East Lancashire in partnership with Communicating Rail Lancashire, brought her to the Ribble Valley, collaborating with Year 8 pupils from Ribblesdale, who have had the pleasure of working with this prolific artist to brighten up the appearance of Ramsgreave and Wilpshire Station – stop number four, connecting Clitheroe to Manchester Victoria.
Working with groups of people from all kinds of different backgrounds, ages and abilities, Karen is used to collaborating with local communities.
Whatever the project, Karen’s goal always remains the same: “I want to create artwork for spaces in order to inspire, so that everyone can enjoy them.”
Using materials such as mosaic and bronze, the range of her public artwork and signage with its beautiful, earthy and steadfast qualities, can be found in locations such as Ramsbottom and Trafford Park. Primarily outdoor pieces, Karen’s work always seems to emit the energy of the place, effortlessly commenting on its surroundings.
Studying at Manchester Metropolitan University where she gained a degree in Interactive Arts, Karen’s passion for synergic art was evident early in her career: “I was asked by the tutors to design and work on an exterior project, which is when I was bitten by the bug. I found the whole experience so gratifying and have focused on work of this kind ever since. When working with others, everyone has a sense of ownership and connection to a place where the work is displayed and that usually creates the best work.”
Karen soon discovered that the pupils of Ribblesdale High School already had a strong connection with the railway as many of them live in the area and frequently use the train to get to and from school every day.
“When talking about environmental issues and questioning the pupils, I realised they all thought that Ramsgreave and Wilpshire station was quite dark and unfriendly.”
After establishing a direction for the project, the Year 8 pupils couldn’t wait to get started and relished the opportunity to get creative.
“The children were so enthusiastic, positive and great to work with. Ribblesdale has a fantastic art department, it’s been a truly brilliant experience from the get go,” adds Karen.
In order to research the project, Karen arranged numerous workshops with the pupils, which have taken place over the past few months.
“I was chosen to take part in this project, for which I am really grateful,” says Kiera, one of the young artists. “I’m going to be part of something that will make people happy.”
Primarily focusing on their career ideas and the environment, these topics eventually led pupils to work towards creating a station that shares positive messages with other young people. After interviewing passengers on the trains and attending a workshop in Manchester, with Karen’s help the pupils began collaboratively focusing on wood grain through a series of images of birds and silver birch trees, symbolising new beginnings. At the moment Karen is crafting these through the use of aluminium and natural materials: “We wanted to give a fresh atmosphere to the railway,” says Karen. “Our aim is to share a positive message and create something that would entice people to use the train.”
Ramsgreave and Wilpshire station, which was reopened in May 1994, saw 94,584 passengers step on to the train from its two platforms last year. The Government’s and environmental activists’ aim to reduce carbon emissions, will be encouraged by Karen and the pupils of the Ribble Valley, as not only have they inspired each other through art, they are inspiring others, through this project, to take the train.
At Ramsgreave and Wilpshire station passengers will soon be immersed in an enchanted woodland, which certainly seems worth taking the train to see.
To find out more about Karen’s work you can find her at: karenallertonarts.com or, even better, you can visit the new art installation at Ramsgreave and Wilpshire from 29th April 2020