Royal Leamington Spa College furniture crafts students played a supporting role in the spectacular transformation of Shakespeare’s New Place, Stratford-upon Avon, as they helped deliver a stunning oak bench which will be a central feature of the dramatic new garden on the site of Shakespeare’s house.
The circular oak bench – which is over 25 metres long – was commissioned by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust from craftsman Armando Magnino, who is also a lecturer at the college. Student Philipp Stummer has worked with Armando on the bench has taken over six months to complete. The bench envelopes the area representing the heart of the Shakespeares’ family home, providing the perfect spot to contemplate the pivotal sculpture, ‘His Mind’s Eye’ a monumental bronze tree representing the power of Shakespeare’s imagination.
Thirteen students transported the bench onto a long loader so it could make the journey from Armando’s workshop in Warwick to Shakespeare’s New Place in Stratford-upon-Avon. As the bench was so large, it was made in six smaller pieces ranging from 6-9m. They then transferred the bench into the contemporary new garden, where Philipp and Armando secured the seating in place.
Speaking after the bench has been delivered safely, Armando said, “We couldn’t have done it without the students so a big thank you to them today. It’s been a long journey as we have been working on the bench since November but it is wonderful to see it finally in the space it was designed for.
“The project has been an incredible experience for myself, and for Philipp and our colleague Simon Ferguson who has been assisting with the project too. I have done a lot of intricate craftsmanship but nothing on this scale – it brings a whole new level of complexity that has many challenges.
“It’s an honour to have my work in a world famous heritage landmark and hope that the visitors make good use of it to take in the view of the beautiful new garden.”
Philipp, who is just about to complete his Level 3 Furniture Crafts at Royal Leamington Spa College said, “It’s amazing to see the bench finally in place. We have done everything in partnership and I have learned so much from Armando on the project.”
Julie Crawshaw, Project Manager, Shakespeare’s New Place said, “We have brought together an outstanding community of artists, craftspeople and designers to create a contemporary gateway to Shakespeare on this internationally significant site. The seating which Armando and his team have created is an artwork in its own right, truly beautiful to the touch and the eye, creating an oasis to sit and contemplate Shakespeare’s enduring influence in our world.”
Visitors to Shakespeare’s New Place, which opens on Friday 1 July 2016, will walk in Shakespeare’s footsteps through a new threshold on the site of his gatehouse and trace the footprint of his family home in a contemporary landscape setting. Commissioned artworks and displays throughout the site, as well as a newly curated exhibition about his life in Stratford, will evoke aspects of Shakespeare’s family life and commemorate the plays and sonnets written during his 19 year ownership of New Place. The project is being funded with support from the Heritage Lottery Fund and Historic England and through public donations.
The link between Warwickshire College Group and Shakespeare’s New Place doesn’t stop with the furniture students as Pershore College’s Avonbank Nursery has also supplied some of the plants for the garden, including pot marigold and cosmos.
For more information about Shakespeare’s New Place go to www.shakespeare.org.uk/
Royal Leamington Spa College offers furniture crafts courses – for more information go to www.warwickshire.ac.uk/courses or call 0300 456 0049.