At the beginning of 2023, Hazlehurst Studios was thrilled to receive a commission for the Runcorn Street Art Project in collaboration with local illustrator Millie Chesters. This partnership underscores our ongoing dedication to actively participate in and enhance the dynamic artistic scene within our community.
What is the project in a nutshell?
Halton Borough Council's "Reconnecting Runcorn" programme is set to breathe new life into Dukesfield, with the Street Art initiative taking centre stage. Supported by the Government's Town Deal and falling under the broader High Street Connectivity plan, the project aims to create a vibrant environment for cyclists and pedestrians.
As part of the “Trumpet loop” demolition in 2021, the Silver Jubilee Bridge approach viaducts were demolished, which opened up a new area. The remaining viaduct piers have been suggested as ‘canvases’ for a Street Art project, ideally situated in helping to create a pleasant walking route and encourage people to go from the Bridgewater Canal towards the River Mersey. Completed in 1961, the concrete viaduct piers have endured for 62 years, adding to the 155-year bridge history in this area.
Local history from Dukesfield has inspired the stories and artwork for the project, with streets named after figures tied to the Duke of Bridgewater and the canal, forming the historical backdrop. The community had a say in the selection of stories, as a public consultation in 2021 gathered input to shape the project.
A collaborative effort involving the Council, local residents, and the Runcorn & District Historical Society has shaped the initiative. Hazlehurst Studios is crafting this booklet, pairing artwork with narratives, to document and share these stories, sparking conversations and community engagement.
The Street Art project is an exciting opportunity to enhance the beauty and cultural richness of Runcorn. By blending art with the town's unique history, the initiative celebrates its existing charm and invites residents to engage with their surroundings in new and inspiring ways.
The project has been split into two phases, with the first phase centering around the creation of a booklet from a series of stories crafted by the Runcorn Street Art Steering Board. In this blog post, we invite you to explore how these stories have come to life. We'll delve into the past, make decisions on style, and collectively decide on the content to be featured in the booklet.
Inspired by the original concept from Runcorn Street Art , the designated area for our project is in Dukesfield. Our studio artist, Lauren Quayle, has documented the location, giving you a good feel for where the project is, which you can see below.
Approximately five minutes into the following video you'll witness the concrete viaduct piers (referred to as pillars in the video) in their full splendour.
Look at life vol 01 transport new roads for old 1959 (2018) YouTube. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bZ51ywg1-9A&ab_channel=PauliosVids (Accessed: 06 December 2023).
The video not only showcases their historical significance within the local landscape but also sheds light on their purpose, especially as the Transporter Bridge receded into the annals of history. For context, this captivating footage is just a few hundred yards from Hazlehurst Studios, and watching it was an absolute delight.
Deciding on a style for the booklet:
Our Studio Artist Claire and Millie Chesters worked together to compile a mood board showcasing different mural artists and inspirational street art projects. The end goal is to use the booklet to bring these stories to life, fostering discussion without prescribing the artistic direction for the ultimate stage – the creation of large-scale artwork on the concrete viaduct piers. The booklet, along with input from the public, will be instrumental in shaping the final aspect of the project.
Delving in to the past - The Stories
The Runcorn and District Historical Society worked closely with our studio artist, Claire Pitt, and freelance artist, Millie Chesters. They were provided with historical material to ignite their creativity for illustrations and story content. Each story, brimming with richness, possessed the substance to fill an entire book. Distilling these narratives into concise summaries of around 250 words proved to be a challenging task. The abundance of tales we could have included became apparent—every conversation and each article read seemed to open up new avenues for exploration.
Into the Archive
Have a look at just some of the information that we uncovered during our research, from looking into the online newspaper archives which includes the British and Irish collections, dating as far back as the 1700s. As well as the collections held by the Runcorn and District Historical Society.
After extensive discussions, we have refined the narratives, focusing on themes that hold historical significance for the area surrounding the viaduct piers and Runcorn as a whole. The selected stories include:
1. Æthelflæd 915 AD
2. The Ferryman and The Fish 1844
3. The Census 1851 and 1861
4. Bruin the Bear 1877
5. The Shaws 1881
6. Tommy Burns 1889
7. George Pye and Son 1890
8. The Bomb 1913
9. Transporter Bridge 1905 -1961
10. The Pubs and Theatres that used to be
The combined research into the stories led to Millie creating the first concept sketches which you can see below.
After further consultation with the steering board, with their feedback, Millie was able to create the final images for the booklet, whilst Claire finished writing the narrative. Which you can see below.
Runcorn Street Art Stories - The Booklet
You can flick through the images or download the PDF below - to have a sneak peek at the booklet:
Downloadable PDF version of Runcorn Street Art Stories below:
Update: Unfortunately the marvellous website dedicated to Tommy Burns has recently been deactivated - So we have edited the PDF and the Slides above to include a new twist to this tale! Thanks to our eagle eyed readers for spotting the website issue!
More information about him can be found here Tommy Burns Wikipedia
What’s the ‘What Next’
The next part of developing the Runcorn Street Art Stories project was to test the response to the stories - head over to read Runcorn Street Art Stories - Part 2 and see
Feedback is really important when it comes to projects like this, so if you could fill in this simple form, you can help to develop what happens next. This survey will be open from the 1st of January to the 31st January https://forms.gle/dkEqubc54EXtJjVL9