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Poignant Bury St Edmunds Art Trail Marks the Centenary of the End of WWI

This summer visitors can take part in a stunning and poignant art trail in Bury St Edmunds that marks the centenary of the end of WWI.

Featuring 18 pieces of artwork by local artists in prime town centre sites the trail will be unveiled on July 21, and finishes on Armistice Day, on November 11. 

The stories behind the pieces tell of the grim reality of war and of life in England during WWI and serve both to engage and educate as well as take visitors around historic Bury St Edmunds.

One of the most poignant pieces in the Bury St Edmunds WWI Trail is a representation of the Victoria Cross which is on display at the town’s Suffolk Regiment Museum by AJ Joinery Ltd of Cockfield. Standing at nearly 8ft high, it will be positioned in the heart of historic Bury St Edmunds on Angel Hill.

Mike Wells with the representation of the Victoria Cross. Photo by Russelll Cook.

‘Tailor Made Tank’, has been created by Steve Manning, who runs Topiary Art Design in Pakenham. A representation of a tank used by the British and Allied forces in the First World War, it stands at 16ft long and is made on a steel frame with camouflage netting. You won’t be able to miss it near the play area in the Abbey Gardens.

‘Tailor Made Tank’ by Steve Manning from Topiary Art Design in Pakenham. Photo by Mark Cordell.

Also on display in the Abbey Gardens (to the right as you enter through the Abbey Gate) will be ‘Shell Shock’. The piece by Nigel Kaines, who also produced the stunning statue of St Edmund at his martyrdom on the Parkway and Risbygate Street roundabout, is a depiction of an explosion bursting from the broken soil of the battle field. It is a solemn reminder of the tens of thousands of men that suffered from psychological trauma due to their exposure to the horrors of WW1.

'Shell Shock’ by Nigel Kaines. Photo by Nigel Kaines.

To the left of the gardens near the café will be a serpentine bench and poppy which features a trench made of oak. ‘The Trench Bench’ is the culmination of hours of painstaking work and dedication by engineering artist Den Humphrey at his Out of Our Tree workshop in Gosfield, near Halstead. It will be 4ft high and up to 25ft long, and features benches and wooden poppies of between 200mm and 700mm in diameter. Each poppy will be able to be purchased with a name, tribute or special message of dedication embedded. The poppies will then be returned to the buyer after the trail finishes.

Pigeons carried a massive amount of information during the First World War. And the birds are to be depicted on another piece of artwork as part of the trail. The ‘Silent Soldiers’ will commemorate how more than 100,000 carrier pigeons were used during the war with an astonishing success rate of 95% getting through to their destination with their message.

It’s being created by Michelle Freeman, who runs the Crafty Foxes in Bury St Edmunds, and features up to 30 of the birds cut out of discarded LPs and fixed onto a 2 x 1 metre copper metal plate. It will be displayed on a wall in the bar of LPs, on the corner of Woolhall Street and St Andrews Street South. The first few pigeons will be cut away from the records to look as if they are flying out of it.

Finding all the pieces of art will enable people to enter a draw to win a variety of vouchers to be spent in Bury St Edmunds town centre. Trail leaflets will be available at all the Visitor Information Points in the town centre from July. For more information on the trail, the pieces and artists visit the Bury St Edmunds WWI Trail website.

The World War I Trail has been organised by the My WiSH Charity and Our Bury St Edmunds, the business improvement district (BID) in the town, which organised the very popular Wolf Trail in 2015. At the culmination of the trail an auction will take place to sell off all of the pieces to go to the Every Heart Matters appeal.