Chisholm Trail Murals

Helen Weinstein, as Artistic Director for the Chisholm Trail Phase One has engaged the local community at public events for story-telling and inspiring artworks - both illustrations and poetry - for a signage and mural project.

Signs will be researched by Helen Weinstein to engage those using the Chisholm Trail with places of interest, as there is much unique archaeology, heritage, and wildlife to make known and celebrate in the area. The mural will do this on a very large scale to tell the story of the history and landscape of the area.  The mural will be in two parts to decorate the hoardings along the Newmarket Road between the Leper Chapel and Paper Mill on the River Cam side of the road, and a very long mural will adorn the flyover alongside Dead Man's Lake and the gateway into Coldham's Common nearest the Harbin stand of Cambridge United footballl stadium.  It will be colourful!

Hundreds of school children have been involved in making artworks for the mural. Helen Weinstein, as Artist in Residence for the Chisholm Trail, has hosted local placement students from Parkside School at Historyworks who have made a fantastic contribution.  In addition, Helen has also collaborated with the Abbey People Youth Group, whose young people have had a huge amount of fun getting creative to make artworks, in particular making lettering and signage for the murals.  Secondary school students have also been illustrating such topics as the beasts and birds around the River Cam, the butterflies and cattle on Coldham's Common, the pioneering scientists at the Pye Electronics and the female pilots who delivered aeroplanes in World War II from Marshall's Airport for the RAF, amazing histories of local endeavour which everyone in the area should know about and be proud of their accomplishments!

Helen Weinstein visited the local primary schools to tell stories, sing songs and co-create poetry inspired by digging out the hidden histories of the area, so that the hoardings will be richly illustrative and this part of the Chisholm Trail project has involved several hundred school children.  To this end, local artists, Hilary Cox Condron and Jill Fordham have also collaborated with Historyworks who organized art workshops in local primary schools with materials provided by Historyworks, with the artists coming up with wonderful ways for local children to learn new art techniques led by professional artists.    For example, children have learnt to do observational work with bugs and beatles in their playground meadows, paint using willow leaves, mirror the style of the bayeaux tapestry, take rubbings from bricks and wooden blocks to co-create a building, print iconic local buildings using sponges in acrylic paint, emulate the human form tracing around student bodies projected onto the walls of their classrooms to show themselves jogging on the soon-to-be openend Chisholm Trail.

Schools have learnt local histories which they have not been introduced to before, such as the story of Roman and Normans coming along the River Cam and been shown the evidenc of pottery and other finds from invasion and settlements in Cambridge, for example by the Romans between the Paper Mill and the Leper Chapel by Coldham's Brook.  


Children in school have learnt from Helen about the Leper Hospital founded around 1150 when a small settlement was made in a similar spot to the Romans nearby the Coldham's brook, where Lepers were outcast from Cambridge, on a small farmstead for sustenance and their begging by the side of the Newmarket Road.  Children drew pictures and wrote poems in empathy for these outsiders, those with the disease of Leprosy which came to Cambridge with those travelling back to Cambridge from trading overseas, and perhaps also from pilgrimages and crusades.  At the time there was no cure, so those with Leprosy were banished from their homes, no longer allowed to earn a living in Cambridge or live with their families, instead because of concerns about spreading the diseas, they lived at the Leper Hospital, buildings made of wood and thatch, with only the stone Leper Chapel surviving to this day. 


Children also enjoyed learning about how King John of Magna Carter fame, gave a charter in 1211 allowing the Leper Hospital to hold a fair every September, in order to raise money to care for the Lepers.  This Fair came to be known as Stourbridge Fair and ran for most of the month of September and in it's heyday was one of the biggest fairs in Europe in the early modern period between the 1500s and the 1700s, although the Lepers were long gone, with no Lepers to care for by the late 1200s.  Schools sung our Stourbridge Fair song led by Helen in special school assemblies, and then they fullly illustrated the story of the Lepers, King John, and then the fair with entertainments and market stalls, and even Isaac Newton coming to the Fair and buying his prisms from the book stall.


School children also in very bright colours did artworks to represent the importance of the Common Lands which the Chisholm Trail will traverse, and learnt the story from Helen about the famous horse fair and the cattle grazing and the fight against enclosure in 1594. This was when greedy landowners were trying to enclose common lands all over England, and local people were often defeated in their access to graze their animals on meadows in common when they were fenced off.  In Barnwell, it was a local hero, called Jack of the Style who led the protests in 1594 and it was through his political action supported by other local families protesting and obstructing the building of fences, that meant that Coldham's Common and the other local meadows such as Stourbridge and Midsummer Common are still Commons where we can see cattle and walk and ride our bikes along the pathways today.


The final set of big stories the chldren told through illustrations were those from Victorian industrialisation of the area, with the coming of the railways in 1845 to today's technological industries and innovations.  Helen showed them old photos of the building of Barnwell Station which cut through the landscape of the Leper Hospital and Coldham's Common and the Stourbridge Fair grounds in the Victorian period, moving the traditional transportation route of the River Cam to the new fast method of transport by train.    With this industrialisation the children illustrated the iconic buildings from the Newmarket Road including the Gas Works, and Sewage Works and Timber Works and Brick Works and Pye and Marshalls and Cambridge United, so they are all recognizable although child fabricated, and have beeen finished by Parkside Arts students.


The final friezes for the mural have been inspired by conversations with the school students about how they are looking forward to using the Chisholm Trail, by cycling and jogging and walking with their friends and family.  A group of students had a discussion with Helen about the future of transportation and imagined how they may travel using new digital technology with fossil-free transportation.  At the public events at the Big Lunch and Leper Chapel Open Days members of the public have also drawn themselves travelling along the Chisholm Trail and the wildlife they have seen along the trail route and look forward to seeing in the future when the trail is completed.  All this engagement has helped raise the profile of the Chisholm Trail and giving ownership to the artworks by including so many local children and their families, who are keen to use the pathways by bike and foot once opened!
If you would like to attend one of our next events, there will be a Historyworks team engaging the public in further collaborative artworks, when we team up with ChYpPS for the afternoon of Wednesday 14th August.  The venue is Coldham's Common, in the meadow by the BMX track, with closest parking and facilities at Abbey Leisure Centre. The timing of the event is 1pm to 4pm and alongside Historyworks there will be popup interactive tents with activities by the University of Cambridge Museums, Facepainting and Circus Fun, tons of Sports including popup tennis all provided by Cambridge Young Peoples Participation Services. 
Chisholm Trail Murals


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