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New public artwork unveiled at Conningbrook Lakes

Tuesday 25th July 2023

New public artwork unveiled at Conningbrook Lakes

A brand-new public artwork, The Birds, has been unveiled in the heart of the Conningbrook Lakes, celebrating the natural beauty of the surrounding landscape.

Residents and stakeholders were invited to the official launch of The Birds on Friday 21st July with the artist and the team behind the project.

The Birds is a large-scale willow sculpture created by artist Julia Clarke, situated at the entrance to Conningbrook Avenue by the main lake.

Comprising seven ‘birds’ elevated from the land as if in flight, The Birds is made from woven brown willow and represents flight, freedom and the natural landscape of the lakes. It is the second public artwork created for Conningbrook Lakes by sculpture Julia Clarke, as part of the development’s public art strategy.

The Birds fly away from the land, inviting you to look outwards across the lake into the sky and the landscape beyond. It was designed as part of the ‘Explore’ theme to connect you to the natural beauty of the immediate landscape and the country park.

Commissioned by joint developers Chartway Partnerships Group and Latimer Developments in partnership with Ashford Borough Council, FrancisKnight consultancy and the local community, the aim is to make Conningbrook Lakes a distinctive and inspiring place to live and explore through art. Artists Julia Clarke, Tim Norris and Outdoor Studios have been commissioned to deliver the programme, and all artworks are inspired by local wildlife at Conningbrook Lakes.

The Birds artist Julia Clarke said: “I wanted to create something that would encourage people to look through and beyond the housing estate, using the animals and birds that are there.

“I am really pleased that Chartway Partnerships and Latimer Developments chose willow as the main material rather than something like bronze. I use steamed brown willow, because they will be outside for a long time and will be stronger. That will last up to 4 years and will eventually wear over time, I will then go back and reweave them.

There’s such a strong feeling when you are in the houses of looking out towards nature. I am really pleased to see them in place.”

Julia’s first artwork, The Loop, was unveiled on the site in July 2022, and she is currently working on a third piece for the site.

Steven Cresswell, Group CEO, Chartway Partnerships Group “We are delighted to unveil this second sculpture for residents and the local community to enjoy, and to keep celebrating the incredible natural landscape of Conningbrook Lakes. The sustainability of the material used for this art piece was of great importance to us, it respects the environment and retains the integrity of the surroundings and reflects our values. The Chartway vision is to develop new homes for everyone and on completion, Conningbrook Lakes will be a true representation of placemaking and community development..

“The ethos of the development is about working with nature and embracing the beauty of it on your doorstep, and these artworks make it an even more inspiring place to live and enjoy.  We’re pleased to give the local community a place to stop, breathe and feel the tranquillity of the surrounding landscape, providing a new positive legacy to the community.”

Sam Truman, Regional Sales Manager, South East Region, Latimer by Clarion Housing Group ““For us at Latimer Developments, it is exciting to see this sculpture making itself at home, becoming part of the growing community and wonderful landscape. We are committed to creating communities that are socially and environmentally sustainable and these seven willow birds represent this commitment completely.

Conningbrook Lakes is surrounded by natural beauty and these latest additions to the lakes, not only form part of it but have been designed to help us take it all in. We look forward to seeing them as they embed more into this new community and hope that they are enjoyed for many years to come.”

“Cllr Heather Hayward, portfolio holder for arts, heritage & culture, said: “This public art project supports placemaking activity, celebrates the area’s landscape and create opportunities for interaction and appreciation of the diverse nature and wildlife found at Conningbrook Lakes and in the surrounding area.

“The council has supported the developers and other stakeholders in bringing forward our vision from the public art strategy, demonstrating our commitment to place-making, high quality design, and recognising the positive impact that the work and skills of artists can bring to public spaces by adding character and an identity for residents and visitors.”

“Conningbrook Lakes is a stunning setting and Julia’s sculptures help to draw the viewer to the lake and beyond. Her use of steamed willow perfectly complements the architecture and its surroundings and it’s a delight to see the birds weaving in and out of the trees right next to the lake.  The second of three sculptures by Julia, residents and visitors can use the artworks to help explore the site, connecting the residential to Conningbrook Country Park. It has been a delight to work with Julia to help realise her artworks.”