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Opportunity for Female Artist: Metalwork Commission for Canal Park, Butetown, Cardiff

Deadline: September 5, 2011

Opportunity for Female Artist

Metalwork Commission for Canal Park, Butetown, Cardiff


Parks Services at Cardiff Council would like to appoint a female artist to work with Somali and Yemeni women as part of a wider package of proposals to enhance their local park. This project aims to make the park more welcoming and attractive to visit.

The artist will work collaboratively with local women and teenage girls to develop designs. We are open to commissioning either an artist blacksmith or an artist designer who will work with specialist fabricators to produce the final artwork. The client is the Parks Service, Cardiff Council.

There are two phases to the project, to be completed by February 2012 and February 2013 respectively.

The Site

On the site of the old Glamorganshire Canal, the park belies its former life as one of the most significant arterial transport routes during Wales’ industrial heyday.  It formed a seaward section of the 25 mile stretch of canal from Merthyr Tydfil to the estuary of the River Taff.  The canal was built in 1794 to transport iron goods from Merthyr to Cardiff and later used in the 19th century for the transport of coal. Together with Cardiff’s docks, the canal played a vital role in Cardiff’s development.  Cardiff had become the biggest and most prosperous coal port in the world by 1913, but the Glamorganshire Canal closed progressively between 1898 and 1951 due to subsidence and competition from the railways.

Canal Park is built upon the route of the old Sea Lock Pond, the section of the canal that linked Cardiff's town centre to the Taff estuary at the Bay. It fell into disuse just before the Second World War and after an accident destroyed the Sea Lock in 1952, it was closed down permanently, filled in and grassed over for recreational use. 

Today the long, narrow shape of the park (just over a mile in length) a few remnant items of canal architecture, local names, memories and artworks give clues to the site’s industrial past: a stone base for a lifting wynch; some iron cleats; a few sections of high stone wall; ‘The Paddle Steamer’, a café run by local residents; mosaic panels at the southern park entrance on James Street at the site of the former iron swing bridge; and a wealth of memories among the community elders who remember the park as a canal.

Phase 1 of the project is to create a section of railings for the Dumballs Road entrance, and phase 2 of the project is to create railings for the Loudon Place entrance.

The People

As Cardiff's coal exports grew in the nineteenth century, so did its population.  Dockworkers and sailors from across the world settled into neighbourhoods close to the docks known as Tiger Bay; named after the fierce currents around the local tidal stretches of the River Severn.

Migrant communities from up to 45 different nationalities settled around the Bay and its docklands, including Somali, Yemeni and Caribbean communities who helped create the unique multicultural character of Butetown.

Tiger Bay has undergone intensive waves of redevelopment since the 1960s, including a rebranding as Cardiff Bay by the Cardiff Bay Development Corporation from the 1980s.  Local people are proud of their Tiger Bay identity and those who live around the park are distinctly proud to be from Butetown.

Site Context

In 2001, the Canal Park Action Plan (updated in 2010) identified a package of environmental improvements for the park in conjunction with a programme of public consultations and park based events. Works implemented under the Action Plan include the installation of an all-weather football facility and play area (2001 to 2002); park boundary fencing, barriers and site furniture (2004 to 2005); improvements to the football pitch (2009); and extension of the play area planned for autumn 2011.

Either side of the park, Angelina Street and Dumballs Road have undergone substantial redevelopment with new housing and commercial development. Local people have worked in partnership with the council, the local mosque and community agencies.  As a result, both the physical park environment and levels of antisocial behaviour in the park have noticeably improved in recent years. But some entrances to the park remain unwelcoming or awkward for some people to negotiate.

This project will enhance two site entrances at the northern section of Canal Park, to be programmed as two separate artworks projects. These entrances are located at either end of a linking footpath which transects the park from Loudon Square (site for phase 2) on the east side of the park to Dumballs Road (site for phase 1) on the west side. Local residents use them regularly and appreciate a park free of vehicles but they have problems negotiating the barriers with baby buggies.

Dumballs Road (phase 1)

Low steel barrier rails define the Dumballs Road entrance where the ground is fairly level. Dating from a previous phase of development in the 1980s, they consist of a low, heavy tubular rail of 80mm diameter, mounted onto wide, flat section steel posts at 1.2m intervals.

A heavy chicane barrier spans the width of the footpath here to provide pedestrian access.  Set back at some distance from the park perimeter, beneath the shade of Norway Maple trees, it provides a functional park entrance but not a particularly inviting one. Due to the configuration of the barrier, people lift baby buggies and young children to take a direct route via the narrow gap within the chicane rather than divert to walk through the wider one.

Loudon Place (phase 2)

Previous site improvements included 2m high bow top railings which replaced a variety of different boundary styles to provide more coherence to the park boundaries. These define the entrance at Loudon Place. The railing panels can be modified or re-orientated as required for the new pedestrian entrance.

Pedestrians access the park here via a small barrier between a locked vehicular swing barrier on one side and the bow topped railings on the other, turning sideways to access the narrow gap. The land rises into the park here and any new structures must accommodate this change in level.

The new entrances will also need to be as effective in keeping vehicles out of the park, but with a much more welcoming, attractive and distinctive design.

All fencing products in this section of the park are of mild steel, galvanised and finished with a bright blue paint, RAL colour 5005. Nearby seats are bright red. Colours are open to discussion.

The Commission

The purpose of this project is to reconfigure these two entrances with panels, bollards, barriers or railings, or a combination of elements, to make the park more welcoming and to give it more identity. Community involvement and participation in the design and development of the artwork forms a key element of both projects. The project will give local people the chance to get involved in the development of the park in a way which expresses their tradition and culture; but also introduces them to local site heritage.

Entrance 1: It is envisaged that the design for this entrance will be developed with women and girls through workshops at The Women’s Workshop on James Street in October 2011. The design should interpret contemporary culture in Butetown in some way, as a celebration of local arts and traditions. The design should also identify the park by name, however, this need not be a dominant feature of the design and the artist will use their aesthetic judgement as to how to incorporate the name into their design. The selected artist will facilitate the equivalent of 3 days of workshops

The new railings will need to merge with the existing boundary railings and also protect the park from vehicular encroachment, whilst considering people with baby buggies and (in the words of a local resident) those who “aren’t exactly slim”!

Entrance 2: It is envisaged that the design for this entrance will be developed in consultation with men and boys of the local community, through a consultation meeting and two workshop sessions at a community centre near the park in 2012. The theme for this entrance should focus more on the site’s heritage as a working canal and should also incorporate the name of the park in some way.

We are looking for an artist to either design and make the railings themselves, or an artist to design and subcontract the fabrication to a metal fabricator/ blacksmith. If the artist prefers to design only, it will be necessary to show in their expression of interest that they have previously worked in this way or have already researched which fabricator they intend to work with.

Site preparation and installing concrete footings for the metalwork will be the responsibility of the main contractor instructed by Cardiff Council. However, the artist will need to agree the specification of the required footings with the Landscape Officer at the Council’s Parks Service prior to construction. 

It will be necessary to liaise with the Council’s landscape officer regarding dimensions, locations, specification of paintwork and maintenance issues. The park is mown with a vehicular mower and there needs to be a margin between the artwork and the grass edge in order to protect both artwork and mower blades from damage. For Phase 1, the new park entrance will utilise the existing blockwork edging.  For Phase 2, new edgings will be required if the entrance is realigned.  These will be installed by the Council’s contractor to suit the required layout.

The artist and public art consultant, together with the landscape officer from Cardiff Council, will work in partnership to coordinate the consultation with The Womens workshop, Butetown Islamic Centre and other stakeholders. The artwork designs will be approved by the Council’s landscape officer prior to physical work starting.

Constraints and Requirements

Issues for the artist to take into consideration when designing the artwork:

  •  The new site entrances must exclude vehicular access;
  •  The entrances should visually tie in with adjacent rails and fencing;
  •  Durability of the design and materials;
  •   Health and safety issues;
  •  The artwork should not have any costly short or long term maintenance requirements;
  •  Accessibility for maintenance/replacement of component parts;
  •  If necessary, production of a comprehensive maintenance schedule may be required.

Artists invited to bid for this commission will demonstrate appropriate skills, an excellent track record and the ability to involve members of the public in their process.

Budget: A budget of £35,000 + vat is available for designing and making the metalwork for both site entrances. This is to include the workshops and consultation meetings, research and design fees, materials and fabrication, delivery to site and installation, but not preparation of the site.


The deadline for the completion of Phase 1 works is the end of February 2012. The proposed timetable is as follows:

  •  Late September 2011 - short-listing and interviews; appointment of artist;
  •  First 3 weeks in October  2011 – Research;
  •  Week commencing 24 October - consultation and holiday workshops with the women and girls (half-term holiday); workshops for the women to run from 10:30 to 14:30 with a half hour lunch break; workshops for the girls to run from 17:00 – 19.00;
  •  Late November 2011 - Presentation of final design for phase 1;
  •  December 2011 - February 2012 – Fabricate and install artworks.

The programme for Phase 2, to take place in 2012, will be confirmed next year. Works will be implemented on site after the reconstruction the new Butetown Community Centre, scheduled for completion in October 2012.


To apply for the project please send images of your previous work on CD as a powerpoint or pdf document with an image list, a brief CV, and a letter outlining your interest in this project. The Selection Panel will consist of Celfwaith and a landscape officer from Parks Services. Reasonable travel expenses to interview will be re-imbursed. A provisional date for artist interviews has been set for 20th September 2011.

Send applications, marked CANAL PARK to: Celfwaith, 7 Pontfaen, Cardiff CF23 7DU.

This brief can also be viewed at www.celfwaith.co.uk. For further information contact: Mererid Velios 02920750992   [email protected]

PLEASE NOTE: This is one of two commissions being advertised for parks in Cardiff and artists may wish to apply for both.

The Selected artist will need to be set up on the Council’s Alito system. In order to do this, they will need to register with one of the member schemes of SSIP such as CHAS. There is a fee for this of between £60 and £80 and the artist will need to allow for this within their budget.

Deadline for applications: Monday 5th September 2011

Visit www.celfwaith.co.uk