Lucy Large

B-Wing, Shepton Mallet Prison - Looking Back by Fiona

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Snakes and Ladders, Fiona Campbell, found and recycled materials. Photos: 1 Dave Cable; 3 Caroline Bond; 4 Jason King; 5 Dave Cable  Snakes and Ladders comprise several dysfunctional hand-made ladders and entrail forms. Two are over 7ms in length, one hovering, suspended in the skylight. They refer to ascension, escape, dreams, inspired by Piranesi’s ‘The Bridge’ from his Imaginary Prisons series, the endless human cycle of striving, greed and suffering.

Snakes and Ladders, Fiona Campbell, found and recycled materials. Photos: 1 Dave Cable; 3 Caroline Bond; 4 Jason King; 5 Dave Cable

Snakes and Ladders comprise several dysfunctional hand-made ladders and entrail forms. Two are over 7ms in length, one hovering, suspended in the skylight. They refer to ascension, escape, dreams, inspired by Piranesi’s ‘The Bridge’ from his Imaginary Prisons series, the endless human cycle of striving, greed and suffering.

B-Wing, a multi-layered collaborative art project I co-curated with Luminara Star, has been an epic journey, an immersive art experience, extraordinary, and challenging.  Held in Shepton Mallet Prison’s B Wing, a massive decommissioned space spanning 3 floors, 8 artists and writers installed site-responsive works throughout the building, some large-scale, others intimate, to be discovered. The exhibition was only open to the public for 16 days during Somerset Art Weeks Festival, packed with fully booked special events and over 1300 visitors. Community workshops were held prior to opening. Preparation has taken a year (with report writing and finances still to finish off :-/)  

A week ago I took down my last piece from Shepton Prison, feeling exilarated and exhausted. The physical effort of making, installing and takedown was compounded by the amount of curatorial work I’ve invested in B-Wing over the past months/year.  Huge thanks to Nick Weaver for his technical help during the making, installation, dismantling and transport stages.  Each was a complex process with precarious moments - apt for my purposefully rickety Snakes and Ladders piece.  The work entailed some intricate engineering, and construction of a makeshift storage space for my ladder sections. Thanks to Jason Nosworthy for also helping instal. 

There have been so many moving moments, especially meeting and hearing John McCarthy speak on our action-packed Special Events Day. The whole contemporary art in prison experience threw up some very emotional reactions from visitors and participants. I was at the prison virtually every day for a month - throughout installation, the various events, and take down, engaging and absorbing visitors’ responses. We were/are delighted with the feedback, support and level of engagement from such a wide demographic, and so grateful to our venue hosts Shepton Mallet Prison and patrons (see below) for enabling the project. 

It’s been wonderful working with such dedicated, talented artists and writers.  I’ve loved the cross-fertilisation! Thanks to the team effort and hard work of artists/writers Lou Baker, Rosie Jackson, Scott Sandford, Geoff Dunlop, Lucy Large, Alice Maddicott and co-curator Luminara Star, I feel our B-Wing project was a resounding success. 

IN.BRS.2019.39 Collaboration by Scott Sandford and Lou Baker. Photo: Dave Cable

IN.BRS.2019.39 Collaboration by Scott Sandford and Lou Baker. Photo: Dave Cable

I was excited by the way my ladders were reflected in Scott Sandford’s black pool and how our artworks in B-Wing resonated together.

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Glut, Fiona Campbell, found and recycled materials. Photos: Above 1 Jason King; 2 Dave Cable. Below 1 Geoff Dunlop; 2 Dave Cable; 3 Jason King

Glut, Fiona Campbell, found and recycled materials. Photos: Above 1 Jason King; 2 Dave Cable. Below 1 Geoff Dunlop; 2 Dave Cable; 3 Jason King

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Tongue, Fiona Campbell, found and recycled materials. Photos: 1 Jason King; 2 Guinevere King

Tongue, Fiona Campbell, found and recycled materials. Photos: 1 Jason King; 2 Guinevere King

Above - community group work: ‘Possessions I & II’. Images 1, 2 & 3: Collaborative work by adults I worked with. Image 4 Work by Year 10s from Whitstone School & Home ed children, led my me and Luminara Star. Photos: 1 Angela Knapp; 2 Caroline Bond

One of my pieces Dawn Chorus was a simple sound work installed in a cell. It can’t be pictured, but Trevor Smith wrote an article published in A-N, describing his response to this piece and other works in B-Wing.

I addition to my Join-in-the-Conversations with Lou Baker and guided art tours, I ran a family friendly sculpture workshop. B Wing was transformed for a morning into a hive of activity. Families spilled out into the main atrium of the prison wing, working together on abstract sculptures made from recycled materials. Lovely comments from participants include:

I’ve never mixed materials with wire before - I love doing it”.. “loved the freedom to explore creatively and spend time with my son”.. “I really enjoyed it but if there was one thing I would change it would be the heating” (Marley, age 6)

Rather than detailing all the events, I’m using pictures to tell the story.   Quality images are so valuable. Thanks to Dave Cable, Geoff Dunlop, Jason King, Caroline Bond, Guinevere King, Scott Sandford, Barry Cawston, Lou Baker, Prerna Chandiramani and Angela Knapp for kindly taking some excellent ones pictured here.

Feedback comments include:

One of the best experiences of art I’ve encountered in years.’ Dominic Weston

Powerful, disquieting, dark and fascinating. Not an easy show but I thoroughly recommend you get to it if you can. Particularly liked the work by Lou Baker and Fiona Campbell .’ Iain Cotton

A remarkable series of works to fit an extraordinary space’. John McCarthy

Absolutely amazing exhibition with astonishing works exploring a rich tapestry of ideas and interventions.’ Adam Grose

Incredibly sensitive use of space and levels. Darkness, depth, hope and light.  Solidarity. … I loved the anchorite cell, the poetry - the use of levels, the ‘chapel’s’ sacred invitation.  The ladders - exploring movement and dimensions - spine and prehistoric relic..’ Amanda Miles

Absolutely fantastic!’ Duncan Cameron

Brilliantly conceived and executed’. Justine Bonner

A very full emotional experience, the work, its placement. Very poignant.’ Rachel Leach

We took part in several radio chats and were thrilled to be featured on BBC and ITV. A film has also been made by Gillian Taylor with BBC of John McCarthy’s interview in response to B-Wing.


For further information visit my previous B-Wing blog posts and our B-Wing website: b-wing.weebly.com

B-Wing is supported by Arts Council England & National Lottery, Somerset Skills and Learning, Somerset Community Foundation, Shepton Mallet Prison, Somerset Art Works, Shepton Town Council, Hauser & Wirth Somerset, Cranmore Parish Council, MJW Architects, and private donors.

Time for a rest and reflection!

B-Wing, Contemporary Art in Unexpected Places by Fiona

Making one of my giant ladder forms. Photo by Jason King

Making one of my giant ladder forms. Photo by Jason King

I’ve been focused on the lead up to B-Wing, an ACE-funded arts project in Shepton Mallet Prison I’m co-curating with Luminar Star, alongside 6 other artists.  Fuelled by the idea of presenting art in unexpected places, the prison’s cavernous B Wing will be transformed into an immersive experience.  Curation has been all-consuming, involving a huge amount of fundraising, planning, management, PR/radio chats, meetings…  In tandem, I’ve been making artwork for it. 

The practicalities of making large-scale work is challenging with limited studio space.  Thankfully, we had a good summer, enabling me to work in the garden on sculptural pieces.  I’m grateful to Shepton Mallet Prison for allowing me to take up residency in B Wing’s Servery to develop my artwork, and thanks to Nick Weaver for use of his wood workshop facilities and technical assistance.

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I’m making large-scale site-responsive sculptural installations involving dysfunctional rickety ladders, referring to the game snakes and ladders.  Interacting with the space, one will be suspended high up in the skylight of B Wing.  Piranesi’s Tavola VII (The Bridge), from The Imaginary Prisons series, resonates with my concerns around freedom and confinement, the endless human cycle of desire, striving, greed, suffering, and human imposition of nature.   Recycled and found everyday materials - wood, fabric, paper, cardboard, wire, twine, wool - are being transformed into drawings in space.


My skeletal ladder structures refer to precarious lives, dreams, escape.  ‘All realization of potential’ Bachelard observes, ‘is conceived as elevation… depicted as a rising curve.’ Ladders are the imaginary stairways of spiritual ascension, dating back to genesis.  I want mine to appear winglike and bonelike, reminiscent of flight, and extinct animals hung in museums.  They will be translucent in parts, ghostly, dreamlike, surreal.  Layers of reused monochrome collaged newspapers add a frailty, evidence of our consumerist world. In contrast, flesh coloured handwoven and wrapped entrail forms will dangle and entwine around ladders, bewailing the heavy realities of violence, destruction, waste and suffering around us.

The work raises questions - are we all offenders given the state of our world today?

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We have numerous free workshops, talks, tours and performances, many come with free get-into-prison tickets. Collaboration is key.  We’ve been engaging community groups making work to be featured as part of our exhibition.  I worked with Whitstone School and adult groups creating collaborative pieces, based around possessions, identity, marking time, time as value, bound. ‘Conversations became the threads that made our connections.’  

Saturday 28th September is B-Wing’s action packed Special Events Day from 10-5.  It will be opened by John McCarthy, renowned writer and broadcaster held hostage in the Lebanon.  The day includes a performative Join in the conversation with Lou Baker and me, Lucy Large’s artist talk, a performance by Luminara Star and Rosie Jackson’s poetry reading.  It will be a day to meet the artists and celebrate. Please come along!

 On National Poetry Day, Thursday 3rd October, 2-4pm, poet Rosie Jackson will lead a poetry performance, 18 Poets in B-Wing, featuring poets from the South West.  On Saturday 5th October, 10-1, I'll be running a family friendly sculpture workshop.  See attached posters (designed by Chris Lee ) and visit: www.b-wing.weebly.com  & social media: @bwing2019

B-Wing opens during Somerset Arts Weeks Festival, 21st September - 6th October, daily 10am-5pm. Reduced entrance (exhibition and prison): £10 adults, accompanied children free.

I’ll be posting about my other projects soon!

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