Art on the road is set to adorn the new A21

    ART students at Tonbridge Grammar School are hoping to see their creations lining the new stretch of the A21 after collaborating with constructors Balfour Beatty.

    The company, which is building the dualling scheme between Vauxhall in Tonbridge and Longfield Road, approached the school last September asking if pupils would make their site building more colourful.

    But they were so impressed by the work created by the GCSE Art and Design students that they agreed to a more creative collaboration.

    Now the school’s Head of Art, Jago Tibbits-Williams, is hoping they will be emblazoned on billboards along the stretch of road.

    “I wanted them to do something special with it, not just use it for wallpaper,” he said. “Something like the ‘My dad works here’ idea.”

    The collection is entitled The A21 – Our Impact On The Environment. The theme is ecological – particularly the measures that Balfour Beatty had to undertake in order to preserve ancient woodland and established wildlife.

    “I only had to mention it to my students and they felt strongly about it – they wanted to be quite critical,” said Jago.

    “I told them, ‘see what you can get away with – but be positive because of the lengths they have gone to.

    “So they had a lot of things to think about,” he added. “It was comparing us needing to get somewhere quicker, as opposed to the things that have always been there.”

    The resulting commission has been included in the course work for Year 11, with six groups of students each producing a different theme. These will go towards the GCSE exams which they finished last week.

    “They are amazing students,” said Jago. “You plant a seed and they go with it. They respond well and they take ownership.”

    Conservation versus development?

    In late November Balfour Beatty’s Sustainability Manager Sam Bower and Design Manager Alison Stevenson addressed an assembly for the Years 10 and 11 about the complexities involved in such a large-scale development project.

    Then four pupils, Rebecca Mumford, Phoebe Hensley, Mia Biggs, Alexandra Laidler, presented the paintings to them and ‘they loved it’.

    Rebecca told the assembly: Conflicts between conservation and development are ever present in modern life. It is easy to disconnect ourselves from the natural world due to the rise of technology and industry.

    “Our lifestyle often damages the delicate ecosystems of the environment around us. Our paintings not only represent the difference between the two themes, but also how they can be balanced – both nature and industry are powerful forces, and can be combined to create empowering innovations.”