Mowbray Park - Sunderland's Public Art Programme

BACKGROUND: Sunderland Public Art Programme's aim is to develop opportunities to commission artists to work with local people to create artworks for public spaces throughout the city. As part of the development of Mowbray Park a wide range of functional and sculptural artworks have been commissioned. Poet in Residence Linda France has created a selection of texts to be incorporated into individual features designed for specific sites, as well as to provide a linking theme highlighting the various elements of the Park - history, flora and fauna, sounds and colours, and above all its lively, playful atmosphere.

My brief was to create text that could be interpreted in stone and embellish wood and steel in response to the existing historical features in the park. The nature of Poetry in Public Art is such that the 'poems' are often very short!

As well as the main features, I also worked with various community groups on words ('fragments' I decided to call them - we were allowed no more than 40 letters) for brass plaques on 80 wooden benches around the park. The words here were also site-specific, referring to the different areas of the park, people's memories of the park and commenting on what the park is for, like a sort of map.

As part of my research I did write a couple of park-inspired poems. 'Makkemwocky' was to try and persuade some council workers that Lewis Carroll did not write 'The Walrus and the Carpenter' after visiting the Museum in Sunderland but probably did write 'Jabberwocky' whilst staying in the area. At one point there were big plans to do the full-scale Walrus and Carpenter kitsch sculpture. Thankfully we managed to lose the Carpenter.  

'The Ark in the Park' was a way of 'writing in to' the words for the rose arbours, arising out of discussions with the blacksmith and wood carver. It was only ever meant as a piece of play - behind-the-scenes notes for the formal public work created off the page in three dimensions.



There is a story that Lewis Carroll was inspired to write 'The Walrus and the Carpenter' after seeing the walrus in the Museum on one of his visits. The dates make this impossible. We do know however that he wrote 'Jabberwocky' while staying in the area. This is my response to that poem - Sunderland's own version...

Linda France

'Twas mowbray, and the fratchy bairns  

Plodged tappy-lappy in the clarts.  

All hempy were the rafflescawps  

Snecking lonnens and garths.  


'You mind the Makkemwock, my lass!  

The lisks that chuck, the lugs that flit.  

You mind the Wayzegoose. Don't fash  

The farntickled rageous Gliff!'


She took her bubblyjock, her bite,  

And skinched her skimmering kellick.  

She loitered under the candlish light  

Peering north and southwick.  


And as she hunkered canny like,  

The Makkemwock, hipsy dixy,  

Rolled dish-clash through the cat-haw night,  

Fettling for his hinny.  


Why aye! Why aye! She skelped him well.  

She brayed him with her bubblyjock.  

She had his puddings; dragged him yem;  

Fladged him into a gowk.  


'And have you bagged a makkemwock?  

Give us a hug, my havelock lass!  

O kenspreckled day! My bede! My brock!'  

Her oxters sweated brass.  


'Twas mowbray, and the fratchy bairns  

Plodged tappy-lappy in the clarts.  

All hempy were the rattlescawps  

Snecking lonnens and garths. 


Linda France

If love was a park,

I'd fill it like an ark,

take you there after dark.


If love was a seagull,

it would be gleeful

and treat us to an earful.


If love was a toad

that glowed on Burdon Road,

I'd write it an ode.


If love was a lion,

it would purr like iron,

burn bright as Orion.


If love was a walrus,

it would be wondrous,

gorgeous, not bogus or surplus.


If love was a bat -

fancy that,

if love was a bat!


If love was a duck,

it would be dumbstruck,

no rhyme for its own luck.


And as all the creatures love

and frolid I would pluck

for you a perfect rose.


For if love was a rose,

we could watch how it grows,

learn all the secrets it knows.