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Tuesday, 21 October 2014

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Sculptor wants to set up trade school in Workington

A world renowned stonemason and sculptor wants to set up a trade school in Workington to give young people a chance.

Shawn Williamson photo
Shawn Williamson with the Herdwick ram sculpture at Cockermouth

Shawn Williamson, of Dearham, wants to share his love of working in stone and to create more opportunities in west Cumbria.

His bold vision is to revive Cumbria Rock Sculpture, making it even bigger and better than it was before.

The idea has the support of Workington town council and the county council.

Shawn, 51, said: “It was a great success and a lot of lads on the programme are still in work now.

“It had a social and democratic dimension. The idea is that it’s a platform where they can maybe have a therapeutic work experience and produce some good sculpture.

“Based on the good things we achieved we are trying to make something bigger happen this time.

“We are looking to set something up to give people a chance to do some carving and learn the beginnings of a craft.

“This is an idea which the whole country should be thinking about.”

Cumbria Rock Sculpture was set up in 1999 but ceased to exist in 2005 mainly due to the recession and the collapse in the building trade.

Shawn passionately believes that arts projects can help alleviate social problems.

Through the probation service he has worked with young offenders in deprived parts of east Manchester at a time when gun crime was rife.

“I have had a hard life so I have an empathy with them and I don’t think there are enough chances or opportunities,” he added.

Paul Scott, 34, of Westfield in Workington, was involved in Rock Sculpture the first time round.

Now training to become a tattoo artist, he said it was the “best thing” he had done because it made him more aware of his creative side.

“If it started back up again I wouldn’t mind doing it again.

“It’s really therapeutic to knock lumps out of rock and there were no restrictions on what you could and couldn’t make.”

Shawn discovered his love of sculpture shovelling iron ore on the Great Lakes in North America when Inuits showed him how to carve in soapstone.

West Cumbrian works include the Herdwick ram on the Sheep and Wool Centre Roundabout near Cockermouth.

Cumbria Rock Sculpture was also responsible for the fish carving near Workington’s Navvies Bridge commissioned to mark the three-year anniversary of the floods.

The company received testimonies from the White House and a letter of thanks from then President George W Bush after completing a small sculpture to commemorate 9/11.

The Morecambe-born artist also has sculptures dotted around the country.

The Emergence statue in Manchester is the biggest piece of freestanding stone sculpture in northern England and was completed with help from six Salterbeck lads.

The skills school would operate as a business producing sculpture and features.

It is also hoped that it would attract both arts and heritage grants.

The Clay Flatts area of Workington has been suggested as a possible base for the school which would cater for “as many people as we could handle”.

Anyone who wants to find out more can contact Workington town council on 01900 702896.

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