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Birdsong sculpture embodies village life in Welborne

06:30 18 June 2014

Norfolk sculptor Neal French donated his sculpture

Norfolk sculptor Neal French donated his sculpture 'Birdsong' to the village of Welborne. Mr French is pictured to the left of the sculpture, with villager Basil Gilson, 88, who inspired the design, to its right.

Archant

A sculpture capturing the tranquility of rural life – and the pose of a well-known community character – was unveiled at a village outside Dereham.

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Norfolk sculptor Neal French donated his sculpture 'Birdsong' to the village of Welborne. Mr French is pictured to the left of the sculpture, with villager Basil Gilson, 88, who inspired the design, to its right.Norfolk sculptor Neal French donated his sculpture 'Birdsong' to the village of Welborne. Mr French is pictured to the left of the sculpture, with villager Basil Gilson, 88, who inspired the design, to its right.

Norfolk artist Neal French donated his sculpture “Birdsong” to stand in the grounds of Welborne Village Hall.

The original modelling began during workshops as part of the 2013 Welborne Arts Festival, where Mr French was commissioned to be the artist in residence. Members of the community were invited to watch him at work and contribute ideas, which led to the final ceramic statue, fired in the artist’s kiln at his studio on Theatre Street in Dereham.

The completed work was unveiled on Monday evening, in the company of villagers including 88-year-old Basil Gilson, whose trademark hat and walking stick inspired the modelled figure, whose head is leaning to one side, listening to skylarks flying above.

Mr French said: “On the first of the two workshops here I had only the faintest of ideas of what I was going to do. I knew it was going to be a figure, and I wanted it to be something for Welborne and about Welborne – something that the village could relate to.

“I am eternally grateful to the person who came in here and said: ‘I have been listening to the skylarks’. From then on, this sculpture was always going to be about birdsong.

“I wanted to express the quietness and tranquility of this village, where often birdsong is the loudest noise.”

Margaret Boulton, one of the festival organisers, said: “The chosen site for the sculpture, beside Welborne Village Hall, between overhanging trees and with an idyllic rural backdrop, is ideal. We have commissioned work at previous festivals and some of it is displayed around the church. However, this is the first work that will be displayed in perpetuity as a legacy of the festival.”

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