An enormous piece of artwork has appeared at Savile Park Moor, the result of Sand In Your Eye marking 25 years of Refugee Week. Felicity Carter finds out more
This year marks 25 years of Refugee Week, and to celebrate the occasion, Hebden Bridge-based Sand In Your Eye joined forces with St Augustine’s Centre of Halifax to launch an enormous piece of temporary land art, entitled ‘Compassion’ at Savile Park Moor.
The huge land art makes a bold statement of compassion for refugees, showing that Calderdale welcomes all those fleeing war and persecution – and to highlight this, the artwork depicts Sobeda who fled Bangladesh, and Lucy a local volunteer whom she met through the local befriending programme.
Sara of St Augustine’s Centre, a hub for refugees and asylum seekers, offering advice and practical help, says: “This Refugee Week we want to celebrate the compassion of the people of Halifax and Calderdale and the many ways we welcome refugees. The large artwork at Savile Park reflects the rich connection between Sobeda and Lucy and the thousands of people across this valley who practise compassion for one another every day.”
Liz Warrington, artist and project leader at Sand In Your Eye, tells us all about project ‘Compassion’.
You’re known for your ‘temporary art art’ – how did that all come about?
We’ve always made artwork that was temporary by its nature, our sand sculptures are only in place for a few days or weeks, our sand drawings are gone by the next tide, our land art is washed away by the rain, our ice sculptures melt and our pumpkin carvings eventually become food for the pigs and compost at our local farm. Some people find it strange and wonder why we’re not bothered by the fact our art doesn’t last, but we think there’s something beautiful in making something ephemeral that is only there fleetingly in the moment. As a company we’ve become more concerned about climate change and our impact on the environment and what that means for the future. As well as making changes to work sustainably and reduce our carbon output to the extent that we have been net zero as a company since 2021 we love the fact that the art we make is incredibly low impact on the environment in which we work.
How did you first get involved with St Augustine’s Centre and Refugee Week?
“Myself and my husband Monir were referred to the Befriending Programme run by St Augustine’s Centre, because when we arrived here we were struggling and isolated. We were introduced to Lucy who has helped us through difficult times and reduced our sadness. This is what compassion means to us,” says Sobeda.
We have worked with St Augustine’s before – creating a giant orange heart made from people in the Piece Hall, Halifax, to send solidarity to the people of Ukraine. Sara Robinson came to us with an idea for a project with a big impact to mark the beginning of Refugee Week and try to change people’s perceptions of refugees and asylum seekers. We share a lot of the same values as St Augustine’s and were excited to work on such an important event.
What was the inspiration behind the piece?
It was important to Sara to involve the centre members, staff and volunteers at St Augustine’s and make sure their voices were heard, they were asked what compassion – the theme of this year’s Refugee Week – meant to them. Lots of ideas were put forward but eventually it was decided to use the Befriending programme at St Augustine’s to show that compassion is something that happens between people. Sobeda and Lucy really symbolised this and you can see from the final artwork their relationship and their compassion for each other. The birds represent migration and freedom, freedom from persecution and worries. It was vital that the centre members and the wider community were part of making the artwork and the land art workshops really gave them an opportunity to do something completely different and add their personal touch to the final image.
What is the process for producing a piece like that?
It was a creative collaboration between all of us and St Augustine’s were very much involved. We came to the centre and photographed Sobeda and Lucy then turned that into a digital image which was then scaled up and made into the land art. We use the same kind of paint that is used to mark out football pitches, it is biodegradable and eventually fades and gets washed away by the rain.
Why Savile Moor Park?
It’s a great park and we had lots of friendly local people chatting to us as we made it, and even a flock of swifts, migrating birds, swooping around us in the hot summer weather as we worked. It’s right in the centre of Halifax, from one angle you see the beautiful Calder valley and the moors and landmarks such as Wainhouse tower, from the other direction you see the bustling town and all the houses that are lived in by everyone from local people to the refugees looking to make Halifax their home. Calderdale is a Valley of Sanctuary and Calderdale Council have been very supportive of the project.
How many people worked on it, and how long did it take?
Six people made the artwork over two days and then five people ran the land art workshops. Luckily for us the weather was fantastic throughout and as it’s nearly midsummer we had long days so could keep working till late.
The art activation to mark Refugee Week was developed in collaboration with Counterpoints Arts and with support from Arts Council England.