Community Engagement

The local community was involved in all aspects of developing the artwork, and to a degree that is almost certainly unprecedented in the UK. Indeed this was an explicit factor in the project's equally unprecedented unanimous approval by the Council's Planning Committee!


Over and above the role of the ex-miners in nominating the site, developing the brief, selecting the artist, and inspiring the concept, the wider local community was informed and involved in a variety of different ways.


Local people were consulted on and kept closely informed of proposals both before and during the formal planning process.


This included via public meetings, the local press, an exhibition within a large "archi-truck" in the Town Centre, a large display in the Town Hall Planning Reception, and online via a dedicated website.


By the same token, energetic and enthusiastic volunteers - most notably the Shining Lights Heritage Group based at the local primary school - worked tirelessly to spread news and raise awareness about the Big Art Project, and help develop other public art initiatives.


Over and above his close involvement with the ex-miners, artist Jaume Plensa met other local community members on numerous occasions and attended several consultation events.


Jaume was also the focus of an Art Fund "Artist in Conversation" event held in front of a large audience at Sutton Manor Primary School on 11 May 2009, at which he explained his inspiration and experiences with regard to developing Dream.


The exceptional nature and extent of local people's involvement in Dream was epitomised by the official launch event on 31 May.


This recreated the lapsed colliery tradition of a "Whit walk" via a carnival-like procession led by a May Queen, primary schoolchildren, and brass bands. Compered by ex-miners Focus Group spokesperson Gary Conley, the ceremony included a community choir singing a specially commissioned song about Dream, plus poetry-reading by another ex-miner.


The guest of honour was artist Jaume Plensa himself who had come all the way from Spain with his family especially to share what was a very special day.


One of Dream's many positive achievements is the extent to which it has brought ex-miners and countless others (back) together and in a sense given the local community back its soul that many felt had been ripped out when the colliery had been closed...