Discover the background to the Re-Imagining the Ring sculpture project.

Catalogue of pieces

The Sculpture Challenge

RE-IMAGINING THE RING — Some Curatorial Thoughts

When we approached schools and youth groups with the idea of reimagining the stone circle through sculpture, we had little idea of how many would want to take part; what their take on the project would be; what would inspire the children; or how they might be mentored to create interesting, evocative and imaginative pieces.

We gave them a presentation about the Stones that illustrated a lot of different aspects of the site that included past art inspired by the stones (including previous sculpture projects), connected legends and folklore, flora, fauna, and their place in prehistory, as well as highlighting abstract notions of colour, shape, contrast etc.  We then left them to it under the mentoring guidance of three talented professional artists, Merlin Porter, Emily Cooling and Anne-Marie Cadman. What has emerged from the primary schools who elected to take part are three very distinctive and powerful approaches that are immediately recognisable. The fourth group of works by individual young artists are all equally distinctive in their own right. 

One of the most pleasing aspects is how the sculptures have picked up on almost all the wide range of themes and ideas touched upon in the briefing presentation.  They mostly arrived untitled, so we have taken the liberty of suggesting titles that occurred to us during the installation process.  In the notes below we give our impressions of the ideas and inspirations underlying —or in several cases perhaps only provoked by—the sculptures.  Other people (including the children and their mentors) may have their own different views....  We would be delighted to hear your reactions: please

Carmen Hoepper (OYAP Trust) and George Lambrick (Rollright Trust)

Glory Farm School: Mandala Series

A mandala (Sanskrit: "circle") is a spiritual Hindu and Buddhist ritual symbol representing the universe. It is especially appropriate to use this form here as a way of reflecting the special spiritual and ritual space that the stone circle represents.

These circles reflect the shape of the ring of boulders, which apart from some inaccurate 19th century reconstruction form a perfect circle.

Circular forms are common in abstract prehistoric art and design from the Neolithic onwards. This is reflected in a Cumbrian stone circle similar to Rollright, in which concentric carvings can be found on on Long Meg, a tall stone standing next to her Daughters. Circles divided up by arcs are characteristic of late Iron Age ‘celtic’ mirror designs such as one from Birdlip (Glos).

The mandalas’ white finish and colourful decorations are a bit like decorative iced buns such as the baker of the legend might have used to help him (unsuccessfully) to count the stones.
The decorative designs have suggested the titles of these pieces.

Sibford School: Wicker & Fabric Series

Of all the prehistoric monuments in Britain, the Rollright Stones together with Stonehenge and a few others have especially rich stories of folklore and legend. Amongst visitors it is the most popular aspect of the Stones.

The pieces representing the knight and the witch, evoke the famous petrifaction legend from which the Stones take their names: when the King could not see Long Compton the witch turned him and his followers to stone, while she became an elder tree.  A third piece, the bridge, recalls the farmer who took a stone to bridge a stream.

The star is a reminder—like some of Glory Farm School’s mandalas —of the darkness and starriness of the night sky at the Stones:  the only aspect of their surroundings that has not changed in 6000 years.

The colourfulness of these and other pieces reflect the strong and varied palette of the 70-odd species of lichens growing on the Stones.  They also reflect some of the wide variety of offerings that visitors leave.
The complex associations of these pieces have suggested the titles.

Bure Park School: Upcycled Plastic Series

The imaginative up-cycling of mass-produced modern plastic and rubber reflects how these materials relate to environmental issues of our age: the use of fossil fuels; generation of non-degradable waste within a throw-away society; and the scourge of plastics clogging the oceans. 

By contrast, prehistoric Britain was a fundamentally eco-friendly world reliant on use of natural materials through individual craftsmanship.

To an imaginative mind everyday plastic discards — crates, waste pipes, drain junctions, flower pots and bits of inner tube—make great materials for ready-formed legs, hooves, heads, bodies and tails.  Some wild animals of the time of the Stones became extinct locally while domestic species are now today’s rarest breeds. 

These components also serve as building blocks Neolithic houses included large rectangular structures that may have had communal purposes - though not multi-storeyed as Bure Park’s version perhaps suggests. The quirkiness and humour of these imaginative pieces inspired the titles

Fairy - by Scarlett Kielle

Young Artists: Individual Series

These contributions have been made by young artists working independently, though with the same broad briefing about the Stones, previous artwork inspired by the Rollright monuments and the kinds of themes that might inspire ideas.  They naturally do not reflect a single unifying style that emerged for the three primary schools, but expand even further the range of inspiration on show. The titles are given by the artists.

19 Fairy by Scarlett Kielle is inspired by the folk tale that fairies who were housed in the rocks of a quarry by the King Stone would come out and dance around the Kings Men circle.

20 Baps, Buns and Baguettes by the Youth of Bicester uses loom bands (a popular craft item) to make colourful abstract baguettes. They evoke the tale of the baker who unsuccessfully used loaves to count the stones. It also reflects on families using the Stones for recreation and play.

21 Dream Catcher by various children at local Play Day, explores the theme of circles, in this case inspired by the crop circles that sometimes appear shortly before harvest in the field next to the stone circle.

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