A new icon for Taunton

To make Taunton visible, you have to see it…

Taunton centric

At a public meeting held by Arts Taunton, one comment resonated with people – that in order for Taunton to be visible, you have to be able to see it!

Taunton’s historic importance is well documented. But today it is known to many as no more than a junction on the motorway, not as a place to visit. It is no longer a destination town.

Arts Taunton wants to help change that. As part of our mission to bring genuine public benefit to Taunton through culture we’re hoping to commission a new public artwork for Taunton people and the wider world. It will stand on Creechbarrow Hill, beside the main entrance to the town, as an iconic statement of Taunton’s rich past, its aspirations today and its belief in a vibrant future.

Why Creechbarrow Hill?

Creechbarrow Hill is one of Taunton’s most historic sites and one of the first recorded landscape features in western England. It was mentioned as the ‘fire hill’ (cructan) in a seventh century Saxon charter and may have been used as a fire beacon within the Vale of Taunton Deane.

Today it is hemmed in by busy roads and its historic isolation has been lost. But it still rises above the noise of the town and provides a fine prospect over the wider landscape. The River Tone, Taunton’s river, flows nearby.

The hill forms part of the site of the UK Hydrographic Office (UKHO), a division of the Ministry of Defence. UKHO has been based in Taunton since 1941, mapping the world’s seas and providing hydrographic and geospatial data to mariners everywhere. Its directors are supportive of the proposed artwork, and the Ministry of Defence, as site owners, have also given provisional approval.

oneway and Creechbarrow

Frequently Asked Questons

Taunton is Somerset’s county town and lies in the fertile Vale of Taunton Deane. It has a growing population of over 70,000 people and has recently been awarded Garden Town status. It has many flourishing cultural organisations, including the Brewhouse Theatre and the Museum of Somerset. But cultural provision, by national comparisons, is under-funded and opportunity for change and renewal is great. It is well documented that culture can influence the aspirations, and therefore the prosperity, of a town.

Consultation will be at the heart of the project to create and install the artwork. We have already sought preliminary views from local residents through a series of events. Most feedback has been very positive, though people naturally have lots of questions. They especially want to know what the artwork will look like!
We will be involving local people in all aspects of the project as it progresses. We want them to think about what Taunton means to them – how that can be reflected in the artwork and we will be encouraging them to contribute their own ideas through small projects and competitions. We will also organise an exhibition of short-listed proposals and listen carefully to public feedback.

We want to generate a demand for the project and an understanding of its aims so that when the artwork finally rises on Creechbarrow Hill it will carry powerful local meaning and have widespread support.

The commissioning process for the artwork will be led by a professional creative producer. Under the guidance of an expert panel, that person will be responsible for all stages of the project, including public engagement.

Design concepts will be sought from selected artists and shortlisted artists will then be invited to submit detailed proposals. The final selection will be made on the basis of artistic merit, practicality, cost and consultation. We will also be very mindful of issues relating to sustainability and environmental impact.

Funding will be sought in two phases. The first phase will cover all steps leading to the selection of a design. The second will cover the costs of production and installation. It is intended that the money should be raised from grant-giving bodies, foundations, philanthropic corporations and individuals.

Yes. It will not interfere with that

These are issues that ultimately the artist will have to cope with. There is currently access for the 3 crosses that go up, but the main purpose will be to drive people to the town itself, to ensure the visibility of Taunton and act as a symbol for Taunton

Yes, absolutely, it has to be.

Yes, the council are very supportive, as are Hydrock. Reiterate, we are not looking to the public purse to fund this project, but the council are supportive.

Cllr Benet Allen, who said:

What is not to like?! This could rise as high as the SCCC flood lights and possibly 2 x Angel of the North (possibly). We’re very delighted it’s not paid for by the public but publicity, planning etc will be supported.

We can’t answer that at the moment as we are way off artwork structure decisions. Access and accessibility will be discussed at later stages.

Extra answer from Tim Lowe,  Hydrographic Office who said:

Access will be a challenge from the UKHO site due to security issues, but access from the Toneway side may be possible. We are investigating the possibilities. We are supportive of this project.

Yes, it will for sure. We are active members of the Garden Town Committee and this is just an element of a larger plan.

We had the charette last Oct (date check needed) and Arts Taunton & RIBA arranged this with council support. It could be good news, but largely it’s due to economics, house builders and how proactive they are etc.

House builders are not keen on public consultation.

But this scheme, if supported from the bottom up will be fantastic.

So…Consultations matter! Come to them, support them, attend and get involved!

We need to do an in-dept consultation first. The people of Taunton need to feed in their ideas.

It’s likely there will be an artist shortlist (possibly of 5 artists) for brief and ideas, then a public exhibition of the artwork proposals and then a vote.

Answered from Cllr Benet Allen

We have not promised a single cent but wish Arts Taunton all the best with their fundraising.

People that come to us do offer their feedback as well as positive comments and also use social media to voice the opinions – which you can see on our FB page. They don’t seem to be afraid of saying it as it is for them. That aside, when you do get feedback/comments like this, please do bring those to us. If people have trusted with this information then to share it will give them a voice – and one we need and want to hear.

The way is now clear for Arts Taunton to move to the next stages of the process which will involve identifying potential artists to undertake the commission, considering initial design ideas, discussions with Somerset West & Taunton Council prior to an application for planning permission and, of course, raising the necessary funds. The intention is to raise the money from private donors so that there will be no call on public funds. If you would like to know more and get involved, please complete the form below and let us know…

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