Public art to remember the Midsummer Oak
Published on 31/07/2018

31 August

Final week August blog.

This week I have been finishing the twists in the main trunk, getting The Parks Trust to turn the top section and working on developing the continuation of the movement. The next batch of wood has gone up to the wood turner for the acorns.

It was good to see the top section standing up to get an idea of how the sculpture would work when standing up. The early sun at this time of the year (and the chilly starts!) has thrown some good light onto the sculpture and gives me a sense of how the work will look in place. It will face the south west and get some good afternoon and evening light.

The engineering and contracting process continues and I can complete the Museum work in another couple of days. Now the impetus will be on getting quotes for making the base and joining plates and getting the work moved down to its site outside intu Milton Keynes so that the school programme of workshops can begin, to move to the next phase of the project.

 

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26 August

This week I've been concentrating on developing the coils in the main trunk to maintain the movement in the top section. Once the flow of the joint had been determined, I had to decide the direction and thickness of the coils.
There developed one main coil quite quickly as I wanted the snake curling around the tree as a central form. Building on the spaces left I could determine how the rest of the coils could work. It was important to leave a 'ground' around the coils, as this would be the perceived surface of the tree around which the coils wound. This space could easily be lowered systematically to leave the coils higher or more compressed as the final forms are refined. 
One visitor very perceptively noted that the tree was being re-made in a new form. It's very important to me that the sculpture has life and movement. Although of course it will never grow a canopy, it will have the four  trees around it in its final position, into which the top of the sculpture will disappear at certain times of the year.
Softer green oak wood has started to appear as I am carving below the 2-3" of seasoned wood. I did break a mallet but thankfully only one gouge so far. There has been a lot of interest from visitors and staff at the museum. Most people really like the idea of resurrecting the tree.

 

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17 August 

Last week was about working on the junction between the two sections and looking at the engineering involved in joining and standing the tree up.

As usual there was a lot of interest from the visitors to the museum and work also started on the first main coil on the trunk itself. I am excited to begin work on the main trunk which will be the most worked section of the first part of the tree work before it goes down to the city centre and school workshops can begin.

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13 August

Images of the branch dividing details attached. I met a small group of interested kids at the Project Space from the MK Gallery and talked about what I was doing. It was interesting to get their ideas of what could be done to use the tree as a public sculpture for their imagination, using folklore and illustration from children's literature as a guide. I also visited the MK Arts Centre to tell them about the project and find out what was going on. The carving, sawing and grinding goes on, trying to get a good line on the branches. Rain on Friday stopped the work as power tools to not like the wet!

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4 August

The tree has been stripped back to the heartwood. The Parks Trust has turned the top section on Monday to give access to the tree. Structural Engineer preparing report on joining and standing the tree back up at intu Milton Keynes.

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31 July

A sculpture made from the Midsummer Place Oak tree will be revealed in Central Milton Keynes for the public to enjoy this autumn.

intu Milton Keynes, in partnership with Milton Keynes Council, has commissioned an internationally-respected artist to create a stunning piece of art from the original oak wood that will be installed in the city centre for all to enjoy for years to come.

Richard Bray was chosen over two other shortlisted artists for his ‘social engagement’ design concept that will see the wood take the form of ‘new’ tree. A spiralling wooden sculpture will stand over five and half metres tall and include a horizontal branch to hold a swing for children to play on.

Simply titled ‘Midsummer Oak’, it will be located in the outdoor area between Hollister and Gap, and is anticipated to be installed by the autumn, when the second part of the project will commence. Richard will hold a series of workshops with the public and schools to invite them to share their ideas on what could be carved into the wood – from fairies to faces, insects to words.

Currently, Richard is taking residence at the Milton Keynes Museum where work on the tree is taking place. He said: “It’s been a privilege to be able to rescue this tree as a public sculpture and I've been collecting people's memories of it at the museum. I'm looking forward to working with the schools during the autumn once the initial carving and assembly is complete and developing the sculpture as a place of imagination and play.”

In 2015, when the Oak tree was confirmed to have died, intu Milton Keynes asked the public what they would like to happen to the oak to ensure its legacy remained part of the centre. Ideas included, ‘a bench’, ‘a bandstand’ and ‘a piece of art’.

“A sculpture made from the original wood seemed the most respectful and significant option that everyone could enjoy,” said Shelley Peppard, general manager at intu Milton Keynes. She added: “We have ensured that the community is big part of each step we have made to ensure this meaningful tree is remembered for future generations.”

Midsummer Place shopping centre was purchased by intu Milton Keynes in 2013 and, at this time, the damage to the Oak was irreversible despite many efforts to save it. Since then, intu has worked with The Parks Trust on a tree adoption programme that saw the Oak’s saplings, grown from the Oak’s acorns, planted near local schools to study.

With the ongoing support of The Parks Trust, the following six schools each have an oak tree planted near them: Falconhurst School, Eaglestone; Giles Brook Primary, Tattenhoe; St Mary and St Giles Junior, Stony Stratford; New Bradwell School; Olney Middle School and Olney Infant School.

Richard Bray will be sending updates on the progress of the project, which will be posted on the intu Milton Keynes website at www.intu.co.uk/miltonkeynes/news

Further details of the workshops will be announced in the coming months.

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