There is some discussion in the village about public works of art due to be installed soon and a worry that the village has not been consulted. This is not true.
Major developments in the village (Knapp’s Meadow, Meadow View and Queen’s Close) have had to make Public Works of Art contributions to the Vale of White Horse District Council. This is known as a Section 106 (S106) agreement. The money is held by the District Council and administered through the Arts Officer for the Vale. The nature and locations of the works of art are decided through consultation and design events run via the Arts Officer and, in Watchfield’s case, assisted by the Watchfield Community Plan group (not the Parish Council).
The Watchfield Community Plan was begun in 2015 and gathered ideas from villagers for things to maintain, change and improvements to make. All households were delivered a postcard on which to note their ideas and the Watchfield Community Plan group put on multiple free events to encourage residents to come along and contribute their thoughts. These included a free family film night with free popcorn, free cream tea, free pot luck supper and a free family fun event with free bouncy castle, hot dogs and refreshments. These encouraged the submission of ideas to form the basis of the eventual questionnaire. There were also comment postcards and suggestion boxes on the outside of the Village Hall, in the Co-Op, Eagle pub and Jubilee Centre. The Community Plan group attended other village events such as bingo, fitness classes, Acorn Club, the Fete and children’s and community groups to gather more ideas.
The questionnaire was formulated on the basis of the suggestions and ratified by the Vale District Council. This was distributed to every house in Watchfield in June 2015 with a Community Plan stand at Watchfield Village Fete. Completed questionnaires could be submitted to the Village Hall post box or collection boxes in the Eagle, College Farm and the Co-Op. There was a free prize draw incentive to return the questionnaires although the completed questionnaires were anonymous.
Returned questionnaires were not read or analysed by the Watchfield Community Plan group but returned to the Vale of White Horse District Council who collated the results and carried out statistical analysis. The Watchfield Community Plan group only analysed the data provided by the District Council to help identify possible projects.
Many of the suggestions have already been implemented and others are in the pipeline through various organisations, such as: picnic tables on recreation ground and Backlands, bus shelters on Faringdon Road, the reinstating of a bus service through Watchfield, a sub-committee has been set up to raise funds for the fabric of St Thomas’ Church, an outreach Post Office is now every Wednesday 1230-1430 in the village hall. village litter picker, email alerts/village communications, increased waste bin provision, increased facilities for older children/adult play/fitness, providing a MUGA, improvements to Village Hall, CCTV on recreation ground, fencing play area from dogs. traffic speed monitoring via Speedwatch, etc.
Comments relating to public works of art included seating, pieces relating to the history of the village and the repurposing of the metal sculpture at the entrance to the village and replacement with something more aesthetically in keeping with the village.
Following the publication of the Community Plan and invitation was sent to every household to join various groups, including one for public works or art. The District Council Arts Officer, alongside this group provided a brief for artists based on the ideas submitted as part of the Community Plan and public consultation events. An invitation was sent through the Arts Officer to a list of known artists and they were asked to submit examples of their work and ideas for Watchfield. A shortlist of artists were invited to visit Watchfield in October 2016. There was then an open evening, advertised to the village on noticeboards, posters and via household leaflet drops, during which artists presented their proposals. Those attending were asked to contribute their thoughts on the proposals and the locations for the works and the brief was honed from there. Updates of the process and progress of the projects has been available at the Annual Village Assemblies of 2016, 2017 and 2018.
Two projects were chosen by those who participated in the consultation process.
Rob Turner was to work collaboratively with the village to produce a new village map. A record of the progress of this project and pictures of the consultation process can be found here
http://watchfieldvillagemap.blogspot.co.uk/ One village map is now on display at Watchfield Primary School and the other at Watchfield Village Hall. Map making sessions were held at the village hall, Watchfield Primary School, Root & Branch and the Jubilee Centre in May 2017 with an open session at the 2017 Watchfield Fete in June 2017. The Village Hall map is a vibrant representation of residents lives and memories and the history of the village. Although not geographically accurate (!) it certainly has a lot to hold the interest and stimulate discussion. The Village Hall map was unveiled during the 2017 Open Gardens event in July.
Pat Walls was asked to produce a series of stone works marking the history of the village – ancient to modern. He held a series of stone carving workshops, again open and advertised to the whole village. Sessions were held in March 2017 in the Village Hall, Watchfield Primary School, Jubilee Centre and Root & Branch, as well as open sessions at the Watchfield Fete in 2017. Hundreds of residents participated in these sessions. All the designs produced have been incorporated into elements of the final works.
The works in design and during carving are shown here:-
The village sign to replace the metal structure at the junction of the High Street and Faringdon Road reflects the stone shaping of the other village entrance marker on Majors Road and the design is based upon an Anglo Saxon Shield. Watchfield is an Anglo Saxon village and home to the scheduled ancient monument of the Anglo Saxon burial ground.
The piece destined for the triangle at the junction of High Street and Majors Road reflects the history of RAF Watchfield as a beam approach training school
The piece for the green at the junction of Chapel Hill and Oak Road is based on an Anglo Saxon cross, again reflecting the heritage of Watchfield
The piece for the verge at the pedestrian entrance to Meadow View onto Star Lane is a high backed seat reflecting the views across the fields and to the more recent history of the wind farm.
There are two pieces destined for the public open space at the Oxford Square end of Meadow View. One is a stone bench with a bas-relief frieze based on the designs from the collaborative workshops. The other is a sculpture of large tumbling leaves that will allow children to scramble over them.
Finally, there are 2 stone benches for the recreation ground. Again, the bas-relief friezes are based on designs from villagers. It is hoped that residents will feel more ownership for these pieces, designed collaboratively
The Parish Council’s role in this process has been to agree to take on ownership of the village designed pieces once complete and installed, maintain and insure them.
The plinths for these works of art are currently being installed (locations verified by Oxfordshire County Council Highways).
Environment Group – This group was instrumental in running the 2017 Watchfield Open Gardens during which 14 gardens of all shapes and sizes opened in July. Around 300 people visited and money raised was split between local charities and bulb planting projects around the village, some of which will surround the new works of art.
The group has also helped with bramble clearance, hedgerow planting and verge tidying.
The final version of the Community Plan can be seen here Watchfield Community Plan