Buxton hosts the famous annual Well Dressing Festival, established in 1840 to coincide with the town’s busiest social period of summer carnival and nowadays to complement the International Opera Festival and Festival Fringe – second only to Edinburgh in scale and popularity.
Many visitors usually flock to town to see the arresting visual displays crafted into intricate topical images from thousands of flower petals carefully pressed into huge clay tablets. However, this year was different: covid-19 gathering restrictions forced the wells dressing event to be cancelled.
Undaunted, the Friends of Buxton Station (FoBS) worked with other local community groups to address the gap left by this cancellation. Volunteers at arty community group Two Left Hands came up with an innovative community art project. Their great idea: asking all local volunteers, acting together or individually to create their own ‘well-dressing’ style panel, any shape or size, celebrating Buxton and the communities that we live in. Then to display them during the well-dressing period from the 5 July until 12 July. Their theme: “Heart of the Community.”
FoBS created a panel on fabric, in the more weather-resistant medium of coloured permanent marker pens. It was sewn into a much larger panel which was displayed on the Grade II Listed fanlight window structure that is a major feature of Buxton Station. FoBS negotiated with DB Cargo (UK) Limited, owner of the structure for the large stitched-together wall hanging to be secured. They had to put together a RAMS (risk assessment-method statement) document to gain the necessary permissions. Train operator, Northern were also asked for special permission to work on this project during lockdown.
Thanks to close working relations with DB Cargo, long term collaborator with FoBS and provider of a rare Licence to Operate on their land, permission was provided to display the alternative wells dressing hanging on their Grade II Listed heritage structure. FoBS also consulted the local Planning Authority about the need for temporary permission, which they found out, was not required.
Chairman of Friends of Buxton Station (FoBS), Dave Carlisle said: “We involved community artist, Matt Cooper to scope out an idea that we’d had. Matt has Autism and anxiety issues, but has successfully worked with FoBS on other arty projects.”
He added: “Matt did a great job in bringing our idea to life. Called ‘Ride the Trainbow,’ he produced the striking image of a train emerging from a heart-shaped rainbow, showing FoBS at the very heart of our community!”
FoBS’s Trainbow image was just one of 45 fabric panels produced by local community groups and volunteers. They were stitched together to form the two huge alternative wells dressing hangings hung from the heritage structure.
Photographs of the event can be seen on this specially created social media hastag, #welldressedbuxton