Kings Hill’s heritage immortalised

Kings Hill’s heritage immortalised

Stories and poems about Kings Hill’s illustrious past as RAF West Malling have been set in bronze, steel and stone to create a wayfinding trail highlighting routes around Liberty Square, the vibrant retail centre at the heart of the development.

Commissioned by Kings Hill developer Liberty Property Trust UK together with partner Kent County Council and curated by Futurecity, the trail features stories and poems gathered by Kent-based community engagement specialists Future Creative through workshops run with local residents, school children, Kings Hill businesses and World War II veterans. Community consultations highlighted memories of the Beatles’ visit to West Malling in 1967 as well as the Great Warbirds Air Display in 1982.

These contemporary accounts of the area’s history and heritage have been incorporated into artworks by artist Richard Wolfstrome and embedded as text into the paved areas which link the shops and businesses of Liberty Square and into sculptures in the public spaces around the listed RAF control tower which has now been restored to its former glory.

The artworks include two steel roundels, each 7.5 metres in diameter, located alongside the historic control tower. One features stenciled text incorporating RAF slang and the other personal stories and anecdotes from local residents. Lines of text have been embedded along the main paved walkways and brass rubbing roundels depicting aircraft which flew from the airfield - such as Spitfires, Hurricanes and Lysanders - are scattered through the area.

Specialist fabricators Millimetre used innovative fabrication techniques to produce the wayfinding system and have also designed bespoke seating for the area.

“These wayfinding artworks are part of a broader cultural strategy to place art and culture at the heart of the Kings Hill community,” said Liberty’s managing director Andrew Blevins. “The wayfinding artworks have been strategically positioned to increase the sense of connectivity between the main heritage points of Kings Hill and the shops and restaurants of Liberty Square in order to create a sense of place.

“This project would not have been possible without the community’s involvement and enthusiasm and we would like to thank everyone who took part.”

Installation of the artworks will continue in June with the official launch taking place in September when the public will be able to view the artworks, take rubbings of the roundels and meet the artist and community contributors.

Mark Davy, founder of Futurecity said: “We believe in ‘galleries without walls’, places where ambitious artworks are available free for new audiences. This commission offers residents and visitors to Kings Hill a chance to engage and interpret the amazing history and heritage of this former RAF ‘Front line’ airfield, through contemporary art of a scale usually found only in our major cities,”

The installation of the new wayfinding artworks will add to Liberty’s credentials as the UK’s leading placemaker – last month the developer won the Place Making Award in Property Week’s Property Awards 2014 for its Cambridge Biomedical Campus, which is home to The Medical Research Council and Addenbrookes Hospital. AstraZeneca has committed to develop a major research and development facility on the campus and Papworth Hospital will be moving there in due course.

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