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Barnsley Metropolitan Borough

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ArtistMaker: Magnus; Ailsa
TitleOfWork: ‘Barnsley Banners’
DescriptionOfPhoto: View of Centre Panel
DateOfCreation: 1999
Dimensions: 3 panels - each at Height: 240; Width: 100
Medium: Ceramic tiles
Location: At first floor level on the exterior wall of Barnsley Central Library. (SE434406)
AtoZReference: p.13 6G
Postcode: S70 2JF
Street: Shambles Street
TownOrVillage: Barnsley
AreaInTown: Town Centre
MetropolitanBorough: Barnsley
Photographer: Dave Ball
ImageCopyright: Sheffield Hallam University
AccessionNumber: b027d
Description: Three ceramic panels, made up of smaller tiles. Each panel is 12 tiles high and 5 tiles wide. The tiles are 20 cm square.

Each panel contains a scene framed by a Trades Union-style banner. The subject matter shows elements of Barnsley and the library service. The bottom of each banner has a bookcase with the words 'LIFE LONG LEARNING ' on it. All the books in it are by local authors and their titles also have relevance to the theme of the banner in which they are placed.

The left hand panel shows local industry: elements on it include a coal fire, a glass blower, a market, a metal spring, steel teeming and a railway. The banner is topped with a clock and a leather belt.
The centre panel contains items relating to sport and the arts: the local football team, a cricket ball, a girl reading, a boy painting and a strip of cinema film. On top of these are a butterfly and a kestrel.
The right hand panel spans a number of subjects: a map of the town, a number of CD's, a floppy disc, a satellite dish, a man in 17th Century clothing holding a scroll with stained glass windows behind him. These have the town's coat of arms at the apex of the banner.

Inside the Library, on display on the basement floor next to the Library cafe, are two further panels. Each is composed of 20 tiles arranged 4 tiles high x 5 tiles wide. They show studies of draped fabrics and cord that relate to the construction of the Trade Union Banner.

Inscription: A metal plaque at street level gives the passer-by some details about the piece:
Barnsley Metropolitan Borough Council / BARNSLEY BANNERS / by Ailsa Magnus / was officially unveiled by / Barry Hines / on Friday 23 July 1999

Commission: Commissioned by Barnsley MBC Libraries and Cultural Services Departments with Single Regeneration Budget funding.

In September 1998 Barnsley MBC published a report entitled "Developing the Cultural Economy (An Arts & Cultural Policy for Barnsley)". Research carried out the previous year had indicated "under-performing" at both the Cooper Art Gallery and the Central Library. An Arts Development Officer was subsequently appointed to the Council. The report identified the need for a more visible arts presence in the town centre. Implementation of this policy can now be seen both in the revival of the Cooper Art Gallery and in subsequent artworks in redeveloped areas of the town centre; at the Station, in George's Yard and outside the Cooper Gallery itself.

The Central Library was built in 1975 on Shambles Street in an area that had been expected to develop commercially. This had failed to materialise, the Library itself was an anonymous building and the area was described as "… underused, rundown and detached from the main shopping areas of the shopping centre." [1] The artists' brief specified the creation of a series of decorative banners that " .. will describe through imagery, text and colour the use of the building and the range of activities that take place in the Library." [1]
Signage, in the form of the words CENTRAL LIBRARY, was also attached to the outside of the building for the first time.

Ailsa Magnus was selected after interview from a shortlist of five artists on 26 November 1998. The design process was scheduled to be completed by January 1999 and fabrication and installation by the Spring of 1999. The project budget was £15,000.
An inspiration for this piece was an old trade union banner on display in Barnsley Town Hall. Barnsley was founded on the linen industry and the artist felt that the theme of banners would be appropriate. She identified different themes for each of the banners: culture, communication, and commerce. The central banner shows images of football, cricket, music, theatre, film and literature; all forms of culture that have had an impact on life in Barnsley. The history of communication from the pulpit to the personal computer is depicted in the right hand panel, with a special emphasis on the new technology now available for public use within the library behind this banner. The third, left hand panel, depicts the various forms of commerce which have been important in the creation of Barnsley; the linen industry, glass-making, smelting, tanning, clock making, rope making, markets, coal and brewing. [2]

Each panel contains a bookshelf with a number of books by local authors or which relate to the town.

Owned by Barnsley Metropolitan Borough Council.

Barnsley Banners was officially unveiled on Friday 23 July 1999 by the writer Barry Hines. Also in attendance were two other local authors whose work appears on the banners: Charlie Williams, comedian, and Dickie Bird, test cricket umpire. [3]

References: [1] Artists' Brief, October 1998
[2] Artist's Statement
[3] Barnsley Chronicle, 30 July, 1999

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Last updated July 18, 2005