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Art Works Helps Redesign Of Wick Lanes Celebrates Town's Heritage

29th March 2024

Photograph of Art Works Helps Redesign Of Wick Lanes Celebrates Town's Heritage

Residents joined local artists to celebrate completion of the community-led Wick Lanes Pocket Places project in the town this week.

The project has seen the installation of a series of durable, long-lasting interventions in and around the lanes to bring life and colour back to the area. Among these are five brand-new artworks inspired by Wick's rich heritage as well as the installation of benches and planters and removal of barriers to increase accessibility and enable more people to stop and enjoy the area.

Royal Burgh of Wick Community Council and The Highland Council successfully applied for Sustrans Scotland's Pocket Places Programme funding to redesign some of the lanes leading to Wick High Street to make them feel safer, easier to navigate, and a better celebration of Wick's unique heritage.

Sustrans' collaborative design process puts the people who use the space at the heart of designing solutions to local issues. Throughout the process, the project partners have invited local residents, schools, groups and business owners to share their views and aspirations for the lanes at a series of engagement activities to ensure that the design meets the needs of those who use it the most.

In response to suggestions during early community engagement for heritage-inspired public artworks in the lanes, the project partners collaborated with Wick Society and commissioned local artists Hannah Cambridge and Aimee Lockwood to create five new artworks inspired by the town’s history and heritage. The artists conducted workshops to gather input from the community and local schools on specific elements from the Johnston Collection, held in trust by The Wick Society, and Wick’s built heritage.

Informed by this community collaboration, the artists translated these elements into exciting designs which are now on display. The artworks have been plasma-cut from weathering steel, a robust and long-lasting material that will stand as lasting testament to Wick’s rich heritage and long history.

What has been installed and where?

An original artwork by Hannah Cambridge has been installed on John Street. Inspired by the ocean and its impact on the culture and people of Wick, the work brings together coastal landmarks, natural elements and traditional trades such as barrel and rope making.

The existing metal barriers have been removed and replaced with a decorative metal barrier featuring phrases in the Caithness dialect to improve accessibility for people using wheelchairs, mobility scooters and with buggies.

Two of the new artworks have been installed on Wares Lane. One by Hannah Cambridge depicts the Herring Queen celebration, a tradition which has evolved into the Gala Queen, a July procession that continues to this day. And a work by Aimee Lockwood celebrates the fountain by the riverside which was commissioned by the Wares family, who were tailors based on Wares Lane. Also on Wares Lane, decorative panels inspired by local knitting traditions will be installed to help improve refuse storage for local businesses.

A bench has been installed at the top of Tolbooth Lane to provide a place for people to stop and rest on the way up the hill.

On Market Lane, two further original artworks by Aimee Lockwood have been installed. One is inspired by the Alexander Bain pub’s past role as a post and telegram office and features bicycle messengers and visual nods to the postal service and telegraph wires. There are also clocks and watchmaking imagery to reference Alexander Bain’s work as an inventor, as well as the watchmakers who used to work in the area.

The other work is centred around a playful leaping man and includes some of the other characters from the Johnston Collection. The artwork also refers to the barrel and rope making industries.

Highland Council Leader and Wick Ward Councillor, Cllr Raymond Bremner said, "This initiative is a small project that will help brighten the lane areas of the town. The funding for this is ring-fenced and, as such, will go to areas that bid to secure it. If we don’t bid, it will go somewhere else. It’s nice to see this project completed. Local folks were engaged from the start, engaging people who live and run businesses in Wick at the heart of the design-process.

"I would like to sincerely thank everyone who has been involved, from coming to the first concept meetings, to taking part in the series of interactive workshops and consultation events. Their input has been key in the whole design process.

"The historic centre of our town will be made a more inviting and appealing place in a small way. It will improve the historic and heritage character of the lanes."

Allan Farquhar, Chair, Royal Burgh of Wick Community Council, said, "Royal Burgh of Wick Community Council are delighted to partner with Highland Council and Sustrans in this initiative which will provide a starting point for the regeneration of our town centre.

"A phased transformation of the Lanes with anticipated spin off to other areas utilising street furniture, artworks and lighting designs sympathetic to our rich heritage and culture complement other development initiatives currently in planning stages by both Highland Council and local community groups."

Marion Eele, Project Lead, Co-Design, Sustrans Scotland, said, "We are thrilled to see work complete on this exciting project delivered in partnership with the local community, Royal Burgh of Wick Community Council and The Highland Council.

"From the beginning of this project, the community told us they wanted to make the lanes feel safer, more inviting and accessible, as well as to see their heritage and historic character strengthened.

“The changes brought about by the local community will enable residents and visitors to the area to enjoy calm and vibrant spaces while celebrating the town’s rich heritage.

“Seeing the interventions come to life highlights the value of putting people at the heart of decisions on their local spaces."

John Street in 2003
Photographer Bill Fernie
It shows some resurfacing of even smaller roads could be afforded in 2003