Public artwork on Fanshawe Avenue/Longbridge Road roundabout Barking, London involving over three hundred children.
Where are you going, and what do you wish?
The old moon asked the three.
We have come to fish for the herring fish
That live in this beautiful sea;
Nets of silver and gold have we…
The Catch is a gateway public artwork for Barking town centre designed by Loraine Leeson in collaboration with Anne Thorne Architects and built by Alloy Fabweld Ltd. It is a 10m structure of steel, rolled aluminium and fiberglass sited on a large roundabout close to Barking Town Centre. The theme reflects two key elements of Barking’s history – its historical fishing industry and the area’s Saxon heritage. However The Catch is also an image for the future – its possibilities grounded in the area’s history and experience as the basis upon which the potential of its young people may be realised.
The artwork represents two nets being cast upwards and outwards with the force of a wave. Their structure derives from Celtic knotwork, inspired by that found on the stonework in the ruins of Barking Abbey, the ‘nets of silver’ of the rhyme. Fish, designed to move with the wind, appear to leap from the net. One of the intentions of the artwork is to support and inspire children and young people of the area in their ideas and wishes for the future, reflecting the borough’s own regeneration strategy. The artwork is lit by low-energy LED’s that move imperceptibly through the blue, green and white areas of the colour spectrum, like light through water.
The artist instigated a scheme to involve local children as well as young people from a nearby sixth form college and university that helped to embed the project within the community. Three hundred and sixty children from a junior school neighbouring the site participated through making their own fish, accompanied by a wish for the future of their community. Workshops were run by graduate students from the University of East London, together with young people from a sixth form college partnered in mentoring relationships with the students. In this way skills and experience were able to flow from the artist to the students and young people, and thereby to the children, each offering support and role modelling to their younger counterparts. The artist helped the children put together a book of the fish they had made with wishes for the future of their community, which was presented to the mayor at the project’s launch. The university hosted an exhibition of all the work produced in connection with the project, which was opened by the vice chancellor and helped to attract a much positive publicity for the project.