At 2 p.m. on Friday 9th December, an official “opening ceremony” was held for The Linesmen, the new sculpture created by Godfrey Phillips at the site of the railway on the Wharf Stream Way art trail.
Gordon Beach, Chair of Eynsham Parish Council, thanked the people and teams who had been involved in the commissioning of the work and the preparation of the site, in particular Heather McCulloch, the Shared Healthy Communities Manager at Cotswold & West Oxfordshire District Councils, whose invaluable help and expertise has enabled the entire Wharf Stream Way project to go ahead, and the Parish Council’s Footpaths Committee volunteers, as well as Eynsham’s community itself.
Gordon explained that the whole ethos of the new trail is to engage members of the community in its creation and enjoyment, which is clearly evident in the artworks themselves (local artists have been commissioned; art groups, day care centres and schools have been involved in competing for and creating works; and teams of local volunteers have been instrumental in decision-making and groundwork - literally!). This engagement has been especially illustrated by the fact that Godfrey and his studio assistant, Amanda, had the wood delivered to the site and brought their equipment, tools and chainsaws every day for several months to create The Linesmen in situ, with passers-by stopping every day to chat and discover the work and its progress.
Godfrey said that he was impressed by the numbers of people who used the trail and expressed interest in the work, and that not only did this give him an opportunity to get to know the local community (and they him), but it also enabled them to get to know the artwork and to “own” it for themselves. He said it was one of the most enjoyable and well-received projects he has ever been involved with, which was lovely for us to hear.
Sue Chapman, a local resident, reminisced about how, as a press photographer in 1965, she was invited to travel on the last goods train which ran along the railway. She was given the chance to stoke the furnace with coal, and it was a trip she has never forgotten.
We all remarked on the atmosphere around the sculpture and how, with the leaves off the trees, it is easy to see where the tracks once were and to imagine them still in place and the trains still running. We left The Linesmen to enjoy their companionable break, with their cups of tea in hand and their tools beside them. We are all thrilled that they are there to remind us of part of Eynsham’s history and culture.