EKR – The Friendly Army.
WW1 Commemorative Project by Gabor Stark, in collaboration with East Kent Railway, 2014-2016
The DMAG Dover Museums & Arts Group project Joined Up has brought together museums, heritage and the arts in the Dover District. Artists were allocated to each of the ten participating cultural organisations, where they researched the site-specific connections to the First World War and created artworks that interpret each collection in a new way. Gabor Stark was the artist who worked with the East Kent Railway heritage line. The industrial railway, originally built to serve the Kent coalfield, today is run entirely by volunteers and visitors can ride restored heritage trains between the villages of Shepherdswell and Eythorne.
The Friendly Army consists of six sited sculptures that trace the historical connections of the site to World War One and mark the thresholds and crossings between the remaining line and its surrounding landscape. All materials were found on site and the sculptures were built together with the EKR volunteers. Placed permanently in the landscape, the sculptural pioneers now guard the tracks, visually re-establish the former links with the East Kent collieries and guide visitors and passers-by along a sequence of stations and situations.
The sculpture is inspired by the war horses that were transported on the East Kent Railway line to and from the Hammill (Woodnesborough) Colliery during World War I. Shortly after the outbreak of the war the Hammill site was taken over by a cavalry remount unit and horses were stabled in the colliery buildings before being deployed to the front. In total, more than one million British horses were sent overseas and just over 60,000 returned. Dragoon also alludes to the heraldic dragon of The Buffs Royal East Kent.
The structure translates the EKR crossing signs along the tracks into three-dimensional elements. Placed beside Shepherdswell Road at the first farmers crossing after the Golgotha Tunnel, the sculpture alludes to wayside and conciliation crosses and pays tribute to the war memorials in Shepherdswell, Eythorne and other villages in East Kent.
Owing to the strategic importance of the East Kent Railway, which used to connect Richborough Port with the London-Dover main line, the army had a presence on the site in both, the First and Second World War. Mounted at the farmers crossing in Eythorne, Organ recalls the muzzles of the Howitzer railway guns that were stationed at the sidings at Eythorne and Shepherdswell in WWII.
The sculpture references the acoustic location devices that preceded radar technology. Sound location was used from mid-WWI to the early years of WWII for the passive detection of enemy aircraft by picking up the noise of the engines. A few sound mirrors can still be found along the Kent coast. The two metal tubes of Receiver are EKR water pipes dating from the 1910s. They originally connected the water well to the storage tank in The Knees Woods at Shepherdswell, feeding the water towers along the tracks. The pipes now act as listening devices channelling the ambient soundscape at Eythorne Station.
The vertical form of Tower is derived from the chimneys and headgear structures of the collieries that were served by the East Kent Railway line. During World War I miners were employed to tunnel and plant explosives beneath enemy lines. The sculpture is placed next to the public footpath in Eythorne, linking to the Miners Heritage Trail and leading walkers along the remains of the former collieries and mining villages of the Kent Coalfield.
The winged sculpture takes its inspiration from the German airplanes that flew via Shepherdswell to Dover during the last Moonlight Raid on England on the night of the 19th to the 20th of May 1918. Pegasus is placed on the surviving brick abutment of Wigmore Lane Bridge, which used to continue to Tilmanstone Colliery. The statue marks the northern end of the remaining East Kent Railway line.
EKR – The Friendly Army, 2014-16
A project by Gabor Stark in collaboration with East Kent Railway
Shepherdswell & Eythorne, Dover District, Kent, UK
Part of the WWI DMAG Project Joined Up. Organised by Dover Arts Development, Joanna Jones & Clare Smith
Funded by Kent County Council and Arts Council England
Thanks to Clare and Joanna at DAD, to all fellow DMAG artist and to all staff and volunteers at East Kent Railway. Special thanks go to Alison and Mark Hopewell at EKR. Without Mark’s knowledge, skills and continuous support the project would not have been possible.
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