After the Black Gold

Via Francigena Arts Trail

The Via Francigena Arts Trail project management team visit to Woolage Village on the 23rd of July 2021 was to meet Channel artists Samuel Little and Ryan Cook and for them to visit the Recreation Ground at Woolage Village for which their public art work proposal has been commissioned.

Woolage Village is a former mining settlement situated midway between Canterbury and Dover, around 1 mile to the east of the A2 and just within the Canterbury district. The village and its recreation ground were originally built in 1912 to accommodate workers associated with the nearby Snowdown Colliery. 

It was a chance for Samuel and Ryan to meet members of the Womanswold Parish Council who have played an active role in the selection of Channel’s proposal for this site which they manage.

The successful proposal, working title: ‘After the Black Gold’, is purposefully simple. It takes the form of a timber structure supporting two lean-to roof pitches – one looking out to the landscape and colliery beyond, one looking in to the village. The roofs providing shelter for a bench.

The proposal is oriented on axis towards the old colliery to draw a connection to the site’s history and to benefit from the existing view onto it from the recreation ground. 

The structure will invite walkers on the North Downs Way to sit, rest and consider the layers of human intervention in this landscape. It will be accompanied by a stand alone interpretation sign that will outline the mining connection between Woolage Village and the Snowdown Colliery. 

Modest in scale, the form and materiality of the proposal take cues from the shelters constructed by workers at the entrance to the colliery. The scale of the proposal will allow  walkers to shelter, either standing or seated, below the roof pitch. The position of the structure and proximity to the road will make it accessible to people of varying mobility. 

‘Channel are very pleased to be working on this commission with Dover Arts Development, Kent AONB and the North Downs Way. The site at Woolage Village offers a fantastic opportunity to engage with the fascinating, often overlooked history of the Kent Coalfield. We hope the project will help walkers along Via Francigena to consider the layers of human intervention in the Kent landscape, as well as reflect broadly on some of the social and ecological costs associated with the large-scale extraction of natural resources’. 

The commission is one of three new public art commissions that will form The Via Francigena Arts Trail. Contruction is estimated to start in October/November 2021.