Morag Myerscough’s Triennial artwork echoes the gasometers which once stood on this site and draws on the shared cultural history, heritage and talents of the local community.
Morag Myerscough’s mantra is ‘make happy those who are near and those who are far will come’. This is such a perfect fit with the Pioneering Places core objective of ‘making East Kent an ever better place to live, work, study, play and visit’, (and in that order), that we were delighted to commission her new work, Flock of Seagulls Bag of Stolen Chips, as part of the Folkestone Triennial 2021 and with support from Arts Council England and National Lottery Heritage Fund.
Crucially, Morag’s work also champions community and public interaction, working with community groups to develop ideas that reflect the identity of the users, drawing on shared cultural history and heritage of the local area. Her piece at the site of the former gasworks draws on our earlier work with the local community through both the Memory Cafe and Sunflower House exhibition and builds on this through her own direct engagement with local residents and community groups.
“What I really wanted to know is what did they feel about where they live? Did they have memories that they wanted to share? Did they have stories?”, says Morag.
Amplifying Community Voices
Identifying Morag’s work as one of “Six highlights from female artists” in Harper’s Bazaar, Triennial curator, Lewis Biggs, explains:
“Morag Myerscough has realised a sequence of celebrated outdoor artworks in the last decade, but Flock of Seagulls Bag of Stolen Chips is the largest she has made, and perhaps the most impressive. Its cylindrical ‘gasometer’ shape and fluorescent colours dominate the Ship Street Gasworks site and the phrases contributed by residents combined with the artist’s clarity of design create an affecting and unforgettable experience.”
Morag describes her process of working with the local community in typically understated fashion:
“The community came up with the words, then the words were given to me then I drew up all the panels and then the panels were given back to the community and then the community painted it.”
“It is just really wonderful to understand how much people want to be part of projects and they want their voices to be out there and they want to be heard“, she adds.
The individuals, community groups, schools, colleges, children and young people involved in the production process has now become a part of the artwork itself, both through their words, their glorious, joyful painting and in a hand-scribed panel crediting all who took part, affixed to the interior of the viewing platform.
“I also wanted the people who were involved to feel empowered that they’d made this piece of work”, says Morag. “Doing workshops is one thing but then actually physically making it has a whole different feeling to it.”
Ugliest, loveliest setting
Described by The Guardian as “one of the ugliest, loveliest settings” of the Triennial, the site of the abandoned gasworks has opened up the site that has been hidden for decades behind a brick wall. Dezeen Magazine focused on how Morag’s work references the heritage and history of the site:
“Using a similar scaffolding structure as the lantern, Myerscough created a viewing platform that opens onto a panorama of an overgrown former gasworks site”, adding that the piece is “Constructed in the distinctive shape of a gas holder, the entrance pavilion was emblazoned with colourful slogans that were written and painted by people living in the area”.
“Now you can walk out here and get this view nobody has seen for 60 years except for the pigeons,” the designer said.
Local MP, Damian Collins, immediately earmarked the piece as one of his Triennial favourites, commenting:
“The overall impact is spectacular and I’m sure it will please viewers from near and far. The artwork also provides an excellent view across the town looking towards the railway viaduct and the harbour beyond.”
You can catch Morag Myerscough’s Flock of Seagulls Bag of Stolen Chips at the Folkestone Triennial until Tuesday 2nd November 2021.