Sustainable transport charity Sustrans is adding Portrait Benches to new routes across the country. The benches offer cyclists and walkers a chance to rest as they make their way along the route, while reflecting on the local landscape. The benches will immortalise three local figures in steel, and will act as a permanent reminder of the creation of the path, and the work undertaken by Sustrans and the Big Lottery Fund.
Sustrans is one of the largest commissioners of public art in the UK , installing art works from sculpture to poetry on walking and cycling routes across the UK .
Each figure will be cut out in Corten sheet steel which weathers naturally over time and requires minimum maintenance. People can stop and rest on the bench and be photographed standing or sitting with the figures. The height of the bench will be around 2 metres.
Portrait Benches will soon be appearing throughout the UK alongside Sustrans walking and cycling routes. Over 80 communities will have the opportunity to select their own figures for the public artworks which will also serve as a resting point.
The launch of the project took place in May 2010 in the Afan Valley in South Wales as the first Portrait Bench was installed overlooking the village of Cwmafan on a new route from Port Talbot into the Afan Forest Park. Residents chose acting legend and local boy Richard Burton CBE, comedian Rob Brydon and a local forest ranger Dick Wagstaff – who has lived, worked and contributed to the community for over 36 years.
When all 80 benches are installed there will be over 240 figures to show us snapshots of how communities across the UK see themselves and their history. Some figures we will know and some we won’t but each bench will be individual and unique to the community.
Cardiff have already chosen local inspiration Dame Tanni Grey Thompson and some children to be part of their benches and in Bury, Padiham, Sale, Cheshunt, Weymouth, Dumfries and Merthyl Tydfil the search for local heroes has started.