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Meccano style bridge construction underway

Date uploaded: December 12, 2012

Construction of a giant Meccano style footbridge over a canal in Little Lever, Bolton started on Saturday 8th December. The steelwork bridge, which was granted planning permission by Bolton Council’s planning committee in September, has been designed by public artist Liam Curtin.

Mr Curtin has delivered a number of high profile public art commissions, such as Northern Quarter Public Art Scheme in Manchester (1994-1998), commissioning 30 artworks from 16 artists, and the Blackpool High Tide Organ (1996), a 15 metre tall sculpture that turns waves into musical chords, which he made with John Gooding and which featured in a recent BBC Coast programme. Click here for more information about Liam Curtin’s work.

Bolton at Home's Percent for Art service is project-managing the scheme on behalf of Bolton Council.  The Percent for Art service was established in 1997 and is the only housing & regeneration based arts team in the UK.  The service has experience of commissioning public and community artworks, using the arts to promote customer involvement and community engagement in innovative ways.  Past projects include The Living Room (2003): an innovative play area designed as brick re-creation of a sitting room, with brick sofas and armchairs; and Door to Door (2008): a temporary public artwork featuring footage of hundreds of the town’s residents fused together to create a dramatic, 100 metre wide film that was projected onto the façade of Bolton town centre’s Le Mans Crescent.

The original walls and abutments for the canal bridge, at Nob End in Little Lever, have already been rebuilt by the Manchester Bolton & Bury Canal Society (Principal Contractor on the scheme) and construction of the metal work, using scaled up Meccano style pieces, began on Saturday.

The bridge will be built on the site of an old disused horse bridge and it will stand 1.3m high and span 6.4m across the canal.  Bolton Council’s engineers have been working with the artist, together with civil engineering experts and students from the University of Bolton, to complete the bridge specifications.

The scheme is intended to create better links between Little Lever and Moses Gate Country Park, and will contribute to the long term goal of the Manchester, Bolton & Bury Canal Society to renovate the whole canal.

Artist Liam Curtin, members of the Canal Society and local volunteers will be constructing the bridge. Work is expected to take a few days to complete and, dependent on weather conditions, the bridge could be finished by Tuesday 11th December. The scheme is costing £90,000 and is being funded through an agreement with a developer as part of a local section 106 planning obligation.

Bolton Council’s Cabinet Member for Environment, Councillor Nick Peel, said: “When this bridge is complete it will be a very distinctive landmark structure. The current bridge has been out of use for a long time and what we’re doing is providing a facility for pedestrians linking Little Lever and Moses Gate together. Being from the local area myself I know that the bridge will really benefit local people and I hope they make good use of it.”

Artist Liam Curtin was commissioned in August 2010 and spent the first six months researching the area and consulting with local residents.  A number of artist-led community engagement activities were undertaken.  In October 2010, in order to begin a dialogue with the local community about what sort of permanent feature might improve the area, local residents were invited to a canal-side community event and made a decorative floating sculpture by stitching thousands of CD’s together.  Mr Curtin also worked with the local youth club where young people used art, physics and maths to create their own model ‘friction lock’ bridge, based on Leonardo Da Vinci’s bridge design.

Mr Curtin said: “Building a bridge from giant Meccano is the fulfillment of a childhood dream. I spent my entire childhood building mechanical devices from Meccano and now we have the largest Meccano style set in the world. This project is unique not just in the sense that it is scaled up Meccano but because local people are actually building their own footbridge and it is bringing the community together. It wasn’t until I actually saw the finished pieces arriving from the factory that I realised we had created something quite wonderful.  As members of the canal society unpacked the lorry they appeared like Lilliputian figures in a magical toy world.

“I am so grateful to everyone involved. The engineers at Bolton Council have been creative and inventive and given us something which is structurally sound without compromising the artwork. The local residents and canal society members have been working tirelessly and the factories in Bolton have made the pieces.”

Sleepy G photography

Sleepy G photography