The Big Picture - Flogging a Dead Horse

The aim of the community project is to create the biggest painting in the UK whilst regenerating a wasteland. The Beacon Road Hockey Pitch in Herne Bay has long been condemned; the AstroTurf is layered with moss and weeds around the edges but presents itself as the perfect canvas and a once in a lifetime community regeneration opportunity. Pembroke Castle in Wales currently has the biggest painting in the UK measuring 1,100m². The Beacon Road Hockey Pitch measures more than 5,000m². 

As a joint venture with Beach Creative, forming part of 'BayFest 2017', the design will celebrate aspects of Herne Bay's little known history. Most people know the symbol of Kent is a horse but few have heard of The Dawn Horse – the world’s earliest fossil of a horse, found locally at Studd Hill, from which all horses are evolved. This amazing bit of local history, unique to Herne Bay, is worth celebrating in a painting!

The Need:

There is an appetite in Herne Bay for positive change but it is slow coming. A lack of activities and funds in the town leaves many residents lonely, isolated and depressed, with a high percentage of mental health problems and unemployment. With competition from other towns like Canterbury and Whitstable, Herne Bay falls off the map in Kent for a place for tourists to spend time and money. 

When speaking to community groups they felt a project like this was a great idea for the town. Herne Bay High pupils completed a survey about the town confirming that a high proportion of young people will engage with events when things are put in place. 

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The Difference Made:

The artist led workshops have encouraged participants to have a go and to even try painting for the first time. Throughout the duration of the festival, specific groups like local schools, youth groups, people with disabilities, mental health problems, drug and alcohol addiction, vulnerable people or elderly people have pre-arranged slots. Many people have just dropped in to have a go. 

The project has encouraged all artistic capability to serve the community as a whole. It has helped people try something new, exciting, challenging and different and see positive things happening on their own doorstep. 

Over 500 litres of paint has been required for the project so far with artists and participants collaborating on a pre-planned design and combined with a more spontaneous and free-form style.

Workshops have included the Herne Bay Hockey Club holding a training session with paint rollers instead of hockey sticks and a team of alternative 'cleaners', with mops and buckets of paint.

Being part of a gigantic, ambitious project has inspired people to discover new skills, interests and enjoyment. People are being given a sense of fulfilment by turning a wasteland into a beautiful space and humanising the environment.  Being part of positive news story has given individuals and community as a whole, something to be proud of and boost morale in Herne Bay.

The project has brought together people who may not normally mix and provided affordable escapism, which is good for mental and physical health. 

Claire Knights, Beach Creative; 

“Artistic expression can be immensely rewarding and simultaneously quite scary but there is nothing like venturing a tiny bit outside of your comfort zone, in a group creating something special, to galvanize social cohesion.

The community project has given children the opportunity to try something unique on a scale they wouldn’t usually get to have a go at. The project lets them be creative and gives them the freedom to have a go! When they see the area for the first time they are surprised about the scale. Children can’t wait to come back the next day to do more. People feel proud about what they have achieved and pleased to see a wasteland being given a new lease of life. It has become a talking point in Herne Bay!” 

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