Pooley Country Park in Polesworth, received a £350,000 cash boost by the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) to fund an arts-led project to help regenerate it into a valued park and community asset in 2011.
The investment, which forms part of the HCA’s National Coalfields Programme, funded improvements that were identified following extensive consultation. These included a new spiral pathway up to the former spoil heap where views across four counties can be seen, an arts installation at the peak and a new park entrance.
An artist team was appointed by a panel that included representatives from the Polesworth Parish Council and The Polesworth Society. The winning artists, Matthew Dalziel and Louise Scullion were selected from a strong international field. They are currently affiliated to the University of Dundee. The appointed artist team consulted with the local community and visitors on ideas for the arts piece on the mound.Pooley Arts Newsletter (PDF, 1.15 MB)
Dalziel + Scullion – Gold Leaf Proposal
From a distance this structure appears like a golden classical column but its footprint takes the shape of a birch leaf, this artwork is in fact made up of thousands of leaves stacked one upon another, symbolising the enormous amount of plant material that created the Pooley coal reserves. Birch trees are a prominent feature of Pooley Park and in the autumn the park is covered in a blanket of millions of jettisoned leaves. The birch is a pioneering species that is successfully colonising the poor soil left behind in what was once a heavily mined area, but it has also played an important part in the regeneration of the park land, its golden leaves gradually decompose to form a fine mulch that other species seed and take root in.
This proposal captures the leaves at a point of transformation, between leaf and soil. This work speaks of the potential to transform generally – and more specifically of the alchemy of organic matter to become coal – a transformation that has fuelled the economies of the world since the industrial revolution. This artwork is constructed in layers that hint at the sedimentary layers below the earth’s surface where coal is trapped between sandstone, clay and quartz. The towering form of the work attempts to picture the unimaginable lengths of time that coal seams took to form, acknowledging too that the connections between plants and economies are still very pertinent today.