800 years ago today, the Magna Carta was signed at Runnymede.
In Salisbury (and in Lincoln) there is a Barons trail.
25 individually designed and painted Barons have been placed around the city, and what a magnificent sight it is.
Salisbury proudly boasts that is has the best preserved copy of the only four Magna Carta left in existence.
The Barons Charter trail is the brainchild of the Trussell trust. - "The discontented Barons of medieval England created a charter that attempted to impose laws on King John to limit his power, greed and authority. The Great Charter of 1215 is the most celebrated document in English history and forms the foundation of liberty and the heart of the process that led to the rule of constitutional law"
The 25 Barons around Salisbury not only celebrate the 25 Barons responsible for the Magna Carta, but also celebrate the city itself, it's a celebration of Art and it gives people an opportunity to walk around this beautiful little city, and reflect on what the Magna Carta means to us today. It's fantastic to celebrate our heritage and history in such a positive, accessible way. Every single Baron is in a public place and can be seen for free. How marvellous.
My journey began along with the other artists in November last year, when we submitted our designs.
In March I was delighted to discover that my design had been accepted and I met my Baron for the first time.
My design is based on the concept of a stained glass window. My dissertation was on the Prisoners of conscience window in the Cathedral, and the main piece of my degree show (over 20 years ago now) was a modern stained glass window. I'm now an oil painter, but there was something pleasing about going back to stained glass design when creating a piece of public art for Salisbury.
The most extraordinary thing about the Baron's is their size and shape, you can be told something is 160cm high all you like, but until you see them you don't realise how chunky these fellows are!
Incidently they are made from a mixture of Class II fire-retardant laminating resin and chopped roving fibreglass over an initial brushed-on layer of polyester gel coat.
Some artists started with underpainting and gradually became more detailed. I began at the top, with various shade of blue.
Each panel of blue needed more layers than I originally thought. I had the extra issue of working in acrylic paint. Acrylic is a wonderfully versatile medium, hard wearing and fast drying, but I'm used to working in oil paint and it took some getting used to.
As I started adding more colour and creating my "glass" I then began painting the black lines representing the lead in a stained glass window. Again, I had enormously underestimated the task. The mouldings of the Baron, which meant is was very difficult to get a "clean line". After a time I got used to it and the Baron started to take on the stand glass form I wanted.
I was working in a public space in the Cross keys, with fellow artists Tom Ridout and James Kent. It was great having company to work with, and we all helped each other along, whenever one of us doubted ourselves. we also had the privilege of seeing the other Barons arrive from artists studios elsewhere as they were completed.
Once the Baron was complete and dry there was the serious job of varnishing. Each baron required at least three coats of outdoor, weatherproof, UV protective varnish. I loved watching my baron become a glossy as glass.
My completed Baron has:
461 flowers, blooms and blossoms,
and 1 bumble bee
So go and do the trail.
Go and see all 25 Barons. They are all so different that there is bound to be something that you like. Take the whole family, debate your favourite, and learn about the Magna Carta along the way!
As you make your way round you can tweet pictures with #BaronSelfie
You can download a map - http://www.thebaronscharter.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/barons-charter-trail-map-web.pdf
Or you can get an app for your iPhone http://www.thebaronscharter.org.uk/trail/
Or you can get a paper copy from Tourist Information Centre, Salisbury Cathedral, Arts Centre, Fisherton Mill, Waitrose, Guildhall and many others.
The trail runs from 12th June - September 6th so it's great day out during the Summer holidays and there are plenty of places for a picnic along the way, or you could stop off at one of Salisbury's many pubs, cafes or restaurants. Your trail could begin (or end) with a visit to the Magna Carta itself in Salisbury Cathedral.
The Barons will be in Salisbury Cathedral all together for just one week at end of September.
On October 1st they will be auctioned off to raise money for the Trussell trust. Find your favourite and save up to bid for it in October.