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A maquette of the proposed bench, shown in situ in the Peace Garden.

Hoping for peace…

Alexandra Park is like the lungs going through the centre of the town of Hastings. Next to the rose garden and running alongside the stream lies the Peace Garden. It was conceived as the result of a conversation between the late Kevin Murphy and Sally Cole on 12 September 2001. The garden is dedicated to: “Personal, community and world peace…” Fiona Rankine and Erica Smith tell us the story of the latest development in the Peace Garden.

The movement for a Peace Garden in Alexandra Park began as a result of 9/11 and was five years in the planning – finally opening in 2006. Local artists, makers and designers were involved in designing the garden and the garden furniture. Over time, the original log seats built by Joc Hare have deteriorated to the point where they need to be replaced.

To commemorate the centenary of World War One, local Quakers decided that they would like to commission a bench for the Peace Garden. It has been designed by Quaker and stained glass artist Alan Wright, using fine chestnut with a steel backrest in the form of a white feather. The 200-year-old chestnut plank for the seat was sourced from Appledore by Paul Reed, a historic buildings consultant. The bench is currently being constructed by local blacksmith Jake Bowers.

The image above is a maquette made by Alan Wright from an eagle’s feather, a bit of old beech fencing and some wire. Alan was motivated to create the bench because of memories of his uncle who lost his legs fighting in the first world war. He also wanted to remember the bravery of conscientious objectors, some of whom were executed for refusing to fight. “I wanted to reclaim the white feather as a symbol of courage, not cowardice.”

To provide funds towards supporting the creation of this unique item, Alan has chosen to sell a unique stained glass pillar within an illuminated light box. The Hope is over 2m tall by 17cm wide – the height of a very tall man. The artwork was originally exhibited in the Rituals and Relics show held at St Mary in the Castle this April and reviewed here.

Traditionally stained glass is ‘read’ from the bottom up; so at ground level we see three monkeys: hear, see, speak no evil. Their startled faces draw us into contemplation of a dying flower. In the middle an hourglass seems to spin like the earth itself. Above this falls a flaming bird, as if into a dark abyss. The eye is drawn up as if through an evolutionary birth canal, drawn up by the light into clearer more hopeful blues and golds where a portal spills out a flame of light and water.

The work consists of painted and stained glass, kiln-fired and leaded, set within a black painted wooden frame. The work is being offered for sale through the website Etsy at a fixed price of £3,000. If it is not sold by 24 August, it will be offered for sale through an auction site. The Hope is currently on display at the Yearly Gathering of British Quakers in Bath, and will return home on 10 August to be exhibited in the window of the Hastings Illuminations lighting shop on the corner of Queens Road and Waterworks Road in Hastings.

The bench will be unveiled at noon on World Peace Day – Sunday 21 September. Residents are welcome to attend the ceremony. For more information, visit Alan Wright’s website.

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Posted 17:03 Friday, Aug 1, 2014 In: Public Arts

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