Unique heritage sculptures unveiled in East Tyrone

Two exciting new sculptures focusing on the industrial past were recently unveiled in Newmills and Coalisland.

The artworks were created as part of the Coalisland & East Tyrone Great Place Scheme, a project delivered by Lough Neagh Partnership with funding from The National Lottery Heritage Fund and additional support from Mid Ulster District Council.

The project ran for almost three years and celebrated the rich industrial heritage of this area.

In particular, it highlighted the manufacturing past of East Tyrone, when textiles, glass, brick, coal and pottery was exported from here across the world, leaving Coalisland by road, canal and railway.

In the Craic Theatre, ‘InterAct’, by Diane McCormick, is already proving a popular feature with playgoers. The brilliant artpiece covers several walls in the theatre foyer and includes work by local people who were able to make their own clay creations at home using special craft kits that were available for free during last summer’s lockdown.

Diane was very impressed with the contributions made by the members of the public: “It was amazing to see the imagination and creativity of the 40 people who took part and their work is such an important feature of the final sculpture. I’m very also very pleased that the Craic Theatre have offered their space for the permanent display of the sculpture, not least because their building is the location of the old Coalisland Weaving Factory and has such strong links to the industrial past of the town. This project has been a great experience and I hope people will enjoy seeing the sculpture every time they visit the theatre.”

Jonny Kerr created his fantastic sculpture, called ‘Tommy’, with the help of trainee blacksmiths from Newmills taking part in a heritage craft training bursary programme offered by the Great Place Scheme project.

The metal sculpture can be seen in the Newmills Community Wildlife Garden. The figure represents a veteran serviceman home from war and returning to his farm, reflecting the Biblical verse “..they shall beat their swords into ploughshares”.

Jonny said: “I’m proud to be part of this project and absolutely delighted with the sculpture. The concept was to recycle old gardening tools to create the figure and it was a wonderful opportunity for the trainees to use the skills they were learning to make something that will be a legacy for the Great Place Scheme.

“Most importantly, it fits perfectly with the commemorative themes represented in the rest of Wildlife Garden.”