Posted by on May 6, 2018 in Blog

This was the experience of a lifetime!

Barnsley Council commissioned local charity Creative Recovery to produce a spectacular work of art to celebrate the town especially for the Tour de Yorkshire bike race which was starting its second leg in Barnsley town centre on 4th May 2018.

The canvas was to be the top levels of Barnsley Market’s multi-storey car park which fills 2,773 square metres!

The idea was that as the TV helicopters flew over the town filming the race they would see our message to the world – “Barnsley is here! We have a rich history and are moving forward to a bright future!”.

I often design marketing communications for Creative Recovery so when founders Helen and Hayley told me about their plans my mind started whirring and I knew I had to get involved.

Artists Helen and Phil worked together with the ‘Recovery Through Art’ group (Creative Recovery’s core visual arts project) to come up with concepts. We really liked the style of old war propaganda posters, with their graphic shapes and block colours, so took inspiration from this.

At the next stage Phil stitched everyones ideas, sketches and graphics together to create this piece.

As you can see the design features two cyclists speeding through the Barnsley townscape. The background reflects the town’s regeneration as the cyclists travel from the industrial landscape into the new. The Town Hall is featured prominently to make it recognisable.
The design was developed to make sure it fulfilled the groups vision and the brief from the Council, and then it was over to me to take Phil’s artwork and transfer it into vector graphics. I simplified it, incorporating more straight lines and circles so it would be easier to draw out at the larger scale in the car park.

We needed to keep in mind that if it was too detailed we would struggle to finish in the tight timeframe.

My graphic design communications background meant that I was concerned that the piece should be easy enough for viewers to take in quickly on tv – this would not a piece that could be absorbed for a length of time on the day.

We needed to work with the landscape of the car park. The split in the 2 car park levels created a natural line so I worked with that to line up with the horizontal lines that span the full width of the artwork.As I drew, the group said they liked the way some of the transparent shapes overlapped to create new shapes and angles, so we decided to keep them in. I added colour as I went and the artwork came alive! Finally everyone was happy and it was time to start painting.

We then added a grid over the image to make it easier to plot each section in the car park.

Armed with laminated plans, rollers, tins of paint and lots of string we measured the area into sections and mainly Helen and Phil drew sections at a time while the rest of us got on the with easy bit – painting. As you might expect with this kind of project, the design evolved somewhat throughout it’s creation, as we got a better handle on the way the paint worked with the tarmac, and how it looked in situ. We painted the ground and also the walls and fences to ensure that no matter what angle the TV crews came from they wouldn’t see any bare concrete. When it was completed we signed our names in spray paint on the barriers around the outside.

Over 30 supporters helped with the painting effort for the equivalent of 4 weeks straight. Throughout the project the weather ranged from snow to heatstroke-inducing sunshine!

When the final drone shots were released on social media just before the big day we got amazing feedback. I think everyone could appreciate the man-power that was put into creating something of this size. The hidden, but equally valuable side of the piece is the community and the wellbeing that we grew together as a team.

On race day we got this lovely coverage on ITV4 first thing in the morning sunshine which was a great start. We enjoyed all of the festivities in town and then met in the sky on our artwork for the start of the men’s race to wave at helicopters in the hope of getting picked up by the TV crews again.

The moment we heard the helicopter coming in the distance was so exciting, we all whooped and jumped and waved like crazy as it came over the town and right over our heads for what seemed like ages. We hugged congratulations and a few emotional tears were shed…

…Unfortunately that footage never made it on TV, but that moment of excitement, pride, friendship and joy was ours, and we will have it with us forever.

Barnsley Council kindly funded this short film to document the project behind the scenes and show that the end product is far more than just a pretty picture.

Photography Credits: Deadline Digital, Wayne Sables Project, Phil Watson and Creative Recovery