Iron Gall by Janetka Platun

This project in 2019 opened a series of creative commissions that will take place through the delivery of the Creative Chilmington Strategy that we produced for Ashford Borough Council. We wanted to set a benchmark for a rigorous commissioning approach and evidence how commissioning can respond sensitively to a place, it’s heritage and landscape and to an existing community seeing radical change unfold in their local area.

Field of Flax

“The Creative Chilmington Strategy provides a great platform from which the CMO and its partners can help create a community which participates in arts and cultural activities, through creative projects which engage with new residents.  A local community leader has already remarked on the quality of the strategy. Thank you to Susie and David for their work, for listening, bringing creative and innovative approaches to the development of the strategy and helping to ensure ownership is in place by many of those involved in the delivery of Chilmington.”

SallyAnne Logan, Chilmington CMO Project Manager
Ashford Borough Council

In close liaison with Ashford Council, we appointed artist Janetka Platun through a publicised open call, inviting expressions of interest to apply to undertake a short term artist residency in Chilmington through summer 2019. At interview we were impressed with Janetka’s varied experience of working creatively in different contexts and communities.

The team at Ashford were comfortable that we wanted Janetka to have enough time to explore the area on the ground, meet local residents and stakeholders and for ideas to begin to emerge.

Gathering Oak Galls

Janetka talked to residents, heritage experts, people she met on walks and visits to the Singleton Environment Centre. In ancient woodland, Janetka discovered oak galls which grow on trees and leaves to host wasp larvae. This resonated with how new residents will move into new homes and create communities with people already living in Chilmington. Janetka made a series of artworks to encapsulate this.

Galls have been used as medicine and are a source of dye. Local Repair Café members helped to collect the galls and make the iron sulphate needed to create gall ink, using old phone chargers. 500 small glass vials were filled with the gall ink. These together with a booklet about the project will be gifted to project participants and the first new residents soon moving to Chilmington. Seven different iron galls have been cast which will be exhibited in the first community hub.

“Building trust between all partners meant we could support Janetka to find the right creative response and so build Ashford Council and the CMO’s confidence in commissioning future public arts projects and involving the community.”

Susie Gray, Cultural Associate
Making silicone moulds for casting
Cast button galls on oak leaf

Janetka was open to engaging with Chilmington’s new primary school which had only a small number of very young students. A group spent time with Janetka thinking about ‘home’ and the natural world, making intricate artworks themselves from local natural materials with their parents and teachers.

Later, on a hot sunny afternoon in late August, various people of all ages who had met Janetka through the project, including from the primary school, crossed the dry cropped golden flax fields to meet Janetka for a landscape drawing session, using the newly made gall ink and also linseed (flax) oil made from local flax fields.

Workshop with Chilmington Primary School
Community Workshop

In early 2020, an event will be held bringing together all those involved to celebrate the project and to launch and gift the artworks to participants. Janetka’s work will also be exhibited in the first community hub and gifted to new residents moving to Chilmngton.

“As an artist who works site-specifically with communities, trust, taking risks and having space for ideas to emerge, is an integral part of the process.

DPQ get this. They strike the right balance between understanding the creative process, and the need for space to experiment, whilst at the same time being attentive to everyone’s needs.

I valued their insight and expertise throughout the residency and hope this is the first of many collaborations.”

Janetka Platun

D-P-Q commissioned this project on behalf of Ashford Borough Council, as part of producing a long-term Creative Communities Strategy for Chilmington, part of The South of Ashford Garden Community development in Kent. We project managed all aspects including devising the project, producing a brief, appointing an artist, liaison throughout, communications and evaluation. The brief set out how an artist would be expected to engage with people living locally and produce a quality contemporary artwork which would be given to participants and to residents, welcoming them to the area.

Creative Chilmington Public Art Commission
Ashford Borough Council & The Chilmington Community Management Organisation

All Photography:  Janetka Platun

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