Emotive artwork commemorates Barnsley Pals

Artwork commemorating the Barnsley Pals will be installed in Barnsley Pals Centenary Square this week (Tuesday, 23 September).

Part of the council’s public art programme, the project is being delivered by specialist public art charity Beam who have commissioned Rachel Welford - a specialist in architectural glass. Much of Rachel’s work focusses on the interaction between glass and light, using mirror and frosted glass in layers to manipulate light.

The artwork is entitled As the stars that shall be bright when we are dust -  a line from the poem The Fallen - They shall not grow old by Laurence Binyon (1869 - 1943).

For the Pals installation, Rachel has created three columns made from layers of toughened, laminated glass. The columns are person-sized which alludes to the human group of Pals and their families.  The largest column is at 50cm wide and two smaller pieces are 40cm wide and 30cm wide. They are 195cm, 175cm and 160cm tall respectively.

The largest work will be at the top of the steps in the town hall gardens, making an interesting counterpoint to the existing ‘Crossing Vertical’ piece. The other two are at the edge of two of the bedding areas. They have been securely fixed into a concrete base underneath the bedding areas.

The progression from one artwork to the next is mainly chronological. The first column relates to the recruitment of the Pals, the second focuses on the war itself, and includes stories from the front, diary entries, maps and battle-plan diagrams. The third column relates to life at home, the end of the war and homecoming.  Rachel spent many hours in Barnsley Archives and Discovery Centre researching its World War One collection.

She has used excerpts of personal correspondence and written records to make images of the writing in its original form.

The imagery has been created on the surface of the columns and embedded within the glassworks. On close inspection the writing is readable, however, as they are layered, giving a lace-like quality, from further away, the light forms an abstract pattern, reflecting and casting shadows onto the ground.

Rachel said: “Being originally from Barnsley, it felt a real honour to be chosen to create the artwork commemorating the Barnsley Pals. I feel like I too am part of the town and its history, and am thrilled to be giving something back by way of this artwork.

“I wanted to create something that encourages quiet contemplation – something beautiful that enhances the landscaping of the square; something meaningful and interesting that will provide food for thought and chance to reflect and remember.

“I am really looking forward to seeing the artwork in place, and hope the people of Barnsley feel it is a fitting tribute to Barnsley’s brave soldiers of World War One.”

Cllr Roy Miller, Cabinet spokesperson for Place, added: “This is a poignant and thought provoking piece of artwork which will provide a lasting memory to the sacrifice made by the Barnsley Pals. It’s also an important addition to Barnsley Council’s commitment to public art, supporting both the cultural sector and the visitor economy.”

A plaque with the title of the work will lead people to visit the Archives to find out more about the material used in the artwork.

Official dedication of the artwork will take place at the launch of The Road to War exhibition on Thursday, 25 September.