Two years after the first ground was broken at the Vale Community Hospital allotment site, a sculpture has been installed to celebrate its progress.

The completed piece

When the community hospital in Dursley, Gloucestershire, was designed and built 10 years ago, art was commissioned as an integral part of the capital project. Part NHS policy, the art project was helped by local GP Dr Simon Opher’s personal and pioneering commitment to ‘art on prescription’ which he had been pursuing for some years. An art committee chaired by Dr Opher was set up and art consultant Lesley Greene appointed to raise funds and choose artists. Open art competitions were set up and local arts centre Prema and Arts Council England made major grants.

The colour of the main entrance façade and colours throughout the hospital were designed by Catrin Jones, and are based on the textile colours from the Stroud Valley (including the ‘Uley Blue’). Shelagh Wakely designed a sculpture for the courtyard. Cleo Mussi designed and made the ‘donkey’ mosaic and Imogen Harvey-Jones designed and made the ward corridor engravings. A poetry and photography residency project celebrating the old Berkeley Vale hospital (that was to be closed) with Ray Moore and Mark Crowe is on display along the staircases.

On completion the project won an Arts & Health South West award and the award money was held to help fund future art commissions. The art group had an aspiration to commission art for the landscape, and meanwhile the Vale Community Hospital Allotment Scheme was making great progress.

Having launched in April 2016, the scheme was set up in order to develop unused land around the hospital into allotments and gardens for all to use and benefit from. Since then 40 raised bed allotments have been built and are available through social prescription or for local individuals and groups interested in growing their own fruit and vegetables, an orchard has been planted and flower beds all around the hospital planted. The scheme includes a weekly gardening club for local volunteers to help maintain the gardens, workshops, training and support.

With the allotment scheme now in its second year it was felt that this would be an ideal time to make use of the Arts & Health South West award, along with a grant from the Summerfield Charitable Trust, to create an integral art commission that would help raise the profile of the allotment scheme and also enhance the hospital landscape.

Local sculptor Natasha Houseago was brought on board to create a sculpture for the site. On 21st March 2018 a beautiful piece of fallen green oak from Dowdeswell Forestry was carefully sited by Greenfields Garden Services at the entrance to the allotments.

Natasha said about the project before beginning: ‘I will initially strip the bark off, work with the shape of the wood and chalk on my rough design. My idea for the sculpture is based around seed, fruit and vegetable forms. The sculpture will slowly evolve throughout the residency through a combination of working with the natural shapes within the wood, being inspired by the people and place.’

Natasha became resident sculptor at the site starting in April and began work on the piece. Sculpture workshops took place allowing allotment holders on site to be hands on and learn new skills creating carvings of vegetables and seeds to enhance this extraordinary greenwood oak sculpture.

The final piece was completed in late June 2018 and we are sure that this is going to be an exciting and memorable celebration of the groundbreaking work being done at the hospital site.

This project is initiated and supported by the Vale Community Hospital allotment scheme managed by Down to Earth Stroud and all are grateful to the Summerfield Charitable Trust for their grant.

For more information about the allotment scheme see our page here.

Natasha Houseago is a professional sculptor. She is passionate about direct carving and the exciting process of transforming a fallen piece of green wood into a new form. Natasha combines her studio practice with teaching carving, exhibiting, community and public art. For more about Natasha see her website here.