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Help celebrate Tamworth's Mercian past by making huge mosaic
People living in and around the Staffordshire town of Tamworth are being invited to get creative and take part in a large and ambitious community art project. Volunteers are being sought to help create an enormous Mercian mosaic which will be situated on the lower lawn of Tamworth Castle Grounds. And, to help get the project off the ground, a series of open workshops have been organised during the February half term holiday when volunteers of all ages and abilities are urged to pop in and have a go. The sessions will take place within the Ankerside Shopping Centre in Tamworth on February 21, 22 and 23 from 10am to 12pm and from 1pm to 3pm each day. The Mercian mosaic project will see 1,400 individual square yard tiles being decorated by people before being brought together to create a large and striking Saxon-themed image.
Artist Maggie Carney works with childen on a square for the Mercian mosaic
The intricate mosaic, which will measure 70 yards by 20 yards, has been designed by Tamworth artist Maggie Carney who has spent the last 12 months living and breathing the project; co-ordinating volunteers and allocating designs. The striking overall design features key elements of Tamworth's Anglo Saxon history, incorporating its landmark buildings, rivers and people, as well as details such as Tamworth pigs, dragons, fish, the Staffordshire knot and Mercian flag. At the centre of the design is Tamworth's 'Lady of the Mercians', Aethelflaed, daughter of King Alfred the Great, who played a pivotal role in English history by building a chain of fortifications against Viking invaders throughout the ancient Kingdom of Mercia. Her fortification of Tamworth in 913 AD became the forerunner to Tamworth Castle. This year marks the 1100th anniversary of Aethelflaed's death in Tamworth and the mosaic will be laid out on the lower lawn of the Castle Grounds for one day on Saturday 14 July as part of a weekend of celebrations to mark the occasion.
The completed mosaic will be laid out on the lower lawn of Tamworth Castle Grounds
Mercian Mosaic is one of several initiatives taking place as part of Arts in Unusual Spaces – a two-year scheme made possible with funding from Arts Council England to bring art to new and interesting spaces across the town. Maggie, a retired school teacher and freelance artist, has worked with Tamworth Borough Council's Arts & Events team before. She has set up a base of operations in the former Argos store in Ankerside Shopping Centre where many of the completed tiles - already made by schoolchildren and individuals - are on display. She said: "This is undoubtedly the biggest project I have ever done and I have spent many hours working on it. The work that has been done so far is amazing and people are welcome to pop in to Ankerside and have a look for themselves – although they may well end up being put to work! The project is progressing well and I'm looking for more willing volunteers to help push it towards completion. It really is the chance to be a part of something amazing."
The Lady Aethelflaed statue outside Tamworth Castle
Councillor Joy Goodall, Tamworth Borough Council's Cabinet member for Environment and Culture, said: "This is a huge project envisioned and developed by the Arts and Events team and brought to life by Maggie and her unrelenting efforts. The project is giving hundreds of people of all ages the chance to come together, get creative and contribute towards something that will be an amazing community effort. I'm really looking forward to seeing the big reveal on July 14, during a very special weekend of celebrations which will be announced soon." Jeff Wigley, Ankerside Shopping Centre manager, said: "It's been a delight to have Maggie at the centre as part of the Mercian Mosaic project and we're looking forward to seeing her host the workshops during the half term holidays. The unit at Ankerside is looking fantastic, with some of the Anglo-Saxon pieces decorating the windows and walls. I'm sure the workshops will be a huge hit during February and it's going to be great to see the finished mosaic in the Castle Grounds this summer."