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New artworks bring history alive at Kings Hill

New artworks bring history alive at Kings Hill

A series of ambitious new artworks which bring Kings Hill’s past alive, making it accessible to the younger generation, new residents, workers and visitors alike, has been unveiled.

Centered around the iconic Art Deco Control Tower, the artworks comprise 12 brass reliefs, 11 of which feature planes that were stationed at Kings Hill during World War II when it was RAF West Malling, while the final relief is of the Magical Mystery Tour bus marking the day The Beatles filmed at the airfield. These brass reliefs can be taken as brass rubbings, allowing children of all ages to engage with the history that makes Kings Hill unique.

In front of, and behind, the newly refurbished Control Tower are large-scale roundels embedded in the ground, one featuring slang used by World War II pilots and the other – which incorporates bespoke seating – containing anecdotes and memories provided by those who lived and worked on site when it was an airfield. ‘Blighty’, Brew Up’ and ‘Tiggerty-Boo’ are three of the 24 slang words featured in the roundels that will soon be adopted into the vocabulary of locals.

Word trails with stories, quotes and ideas provided by the community have been set in bronze and embedded into the area around Liberty Square. They include inspirational poetry about flight written by the children of Kings Hill, and memories of the airfield provided by veterans.

Called ‘Kings Hill…A Place of Landings’, the artworks were commissioned by Kings Hill developer Liberty Property Trust UK and Kent County Council, from recommendations set out in Kings Hill’s culture and placemaking strategy written by curators Futurecity with designs by artist Richard Wolfstrome.

Local historian Peter Hall, author of ‘By Day & By Night ; The Men and Machines of West Malling Airfield 1940 – 1960’ unveiled the artworks on Friday (5 Sept), watched by more than 200 local people and VIPs. Peter also fact checked all historical references that were included in the artworks.

Speaking at the unveiling, John Simmonds, Deputy Leader of Kent County Council said that they provide a true sense of place, which sets Kings Hill apart from other developments.

“Public artwork has significantly contributed towards the highly aspirational new community we see today and which has been recognised nationally as best practice in placemaking and new community creation,” he said.

“All these achievements flow from the combined efforts of Liberty’s proven delivery abilities and Kent County Council’s long term strategic thinking by promoting regeneration and economic growth policies. Kings Hill is a ‘garden village’, demonstrating the benefits of an excellent and well-balanced public/private sector collaboration.”

The artworks are part of Liberty’s broader cultural strategy to place art and culture at the heart of the Kings Hill community to engender pride in the surroundings, engage the public and create a sense of place.

Mark Davy, founder of Futurecity which curated the artworks said: “We believe in ‘galleries without walls’, places where ambitious artworks are available free for new audiences. This commission offers residents, workers 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 artworks will add to Liberty’s credentials as the UK’s leading ‘placemaker’ – recently 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.

Kings Hill, a contemporary garden village, is set in 800 acres near the county town of Maidstone and is just two miles from junction 4 of the M20. It was a former airfield and is now home to around 8,000 residents and more than 200 businesses employing some 5,000 people.

There are also two primary schools with a third planned and a village centre with shops including Waitrose; Costa Coffee; Domino’s and restaurants as well as a surgery, dry cleaners, shoe repairers, pharmacy and opticians.

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