Each month over twenty thousand people walk or drive past an unoccupied Georgian building in St Paul’s Square, Bedford without a second glance. However one morning in 2012 the windows of the building were dressed with stunning large lace panels, and the people of Bedford came to admire the transformation.
Earlier in 2011 Bedford Creative Arts (BCA) had commissioned Bedford-based artist Arabel Rosillo de Blas to breathe life into a neglected part of the town. Inspired by the rich history of lacemaking in Bedford, the artist proposed to work with the people of Bedford to lace a building as a celebration of the town’s cultural heritage. Over one hundred Bedford volunteers, including Bedfordshire’s own Aragon Lacemakers, came together to create 14 lace panels for the windows of the building in St Paul’s Square. Made from three miles of crisp white nylon rope, the lace work for the panels followed a traditional Bedford pattern and was handmade by twenty eight local people, many with no prior experience of lacemaking.
The commission, called Lace in Place, was much admired. Scheduled to stay in place for three months, it was extended to nine, following a petition on the ‘We Are Bedford’ Facebook page. “Lace in Place was an extremely popular project locally. It brought new life to the imposing façade of 1 St Paul’s Square and got people talking about the building,” says Mayor Hodgson of Bedford Borough Council.
The commission started to receive national and international recognition, media coverage and also prompted further cultural activity in the town centre. Bedford’s Higgins Museum and Gallery commissioned the Aragon Lacemakers to create a second lace work that was exhibited at the museum later in 2012.
“People still talk about Lace in Place” says BCA’s Dawn Giles. “It brought an increased awareness of Bedford’s local heritage, it increased people’s confidence in art making and creative activities and it increased people’s sense of pride in their local area.”
“Thank you to everyone who dedicated their time to this project and I hope we see more of this to come.” Cllr Doug McMurdo, Portfolio Holder for Leisure and Culture, Bedford Borough Council
“So often these things are a labour of love.” Sandra King, Lacemaker
Commissioned and produced by Bedford Creative Arts and funded by Arts Council England