Date: Tuesday 19 August 2014
The first piece of an impressive new public artwork, ‘Introduced Species’, which pays tribute to Colchester’s ancient Roman history, has been laid at our Praecedo development in the city.
As another layer is added to the site’s history, public artist Zoë Chamberlain has been getting to know the area and its past, right back to Roman times, while exploring the community networks associated with it today.
The artwork will be made up of a series of text panels which will be laid along the walkway of Wolfe Avenue, former site of the Meeanee and Hyderabad Barracks, with each panel depicting a word from a Roman motto which reads ‘inhabit, cultivate, frequent, practice, tend, guard, respect’.
Within each panel are words in different languages from nationalities that have had connections with the site and local neighbourhood, each word chosen to represent different food species introduced to Colchester from all around the world.
Zoë says: “My work is always about people and place, and connecting people with the place where they live.
“In Roman times the Praecedo site would have been used by families to grow food in small settlements outside the city walls. The Roman communities were made up of different nationalities from all over the Empire.
“More recently the modern military presence has meant that Colchester has been a base for a changing population with connections all around the world – with that migration and global experience comes the interchange of different foods and cultures which filter through to influence everyday life.
“As ex-service personnel and new groups of people move to Praecedo and call the area home, they bring their own tastes and cultures into the neighbourhood.”
Residents at Praecedo were invited to get involved with the project by growing their own ‘Introduced Species’ when a packet of seeds which was specially designed by Zoe was sent to each home in celebration of the global diversity of the site and all those who had come before.
Zoë says: “The seeds were sent to residents and local schoolchildren in the New Town area to enable them to grow four different kinds of food which are species introduced to Colchester by the Romans – there were carrots, lettuce, cabbages and radishes.
“I think people were surprised to know that we didn’t grow any of these everyday foods in this country until the Romans introduced them to our diet.”
Michael O’Leary, Regional Sales and Marketing Director for Taylor Wimpey, says: “The new public artwork which Zoë has designed will look fantastic when it is complete and is a superb way to pay homage to Praecedo’s Roman and military roots.
“This artwork is sure to be an impressive focal point of the development for all of our current and future residents at Praecedo.
“We’re expecting lots of interest from local people keen to find out more about their neighbourhood and see how this historic part of Colchester has been transformed.
“The entire project has been funded by Taylor Wimpey as part of our financial commitments to the local community in relation to our Praecedo development. The public artwork is a fantastic benefit for the community and enhances a sense of place for local residents.”
Praecedo means to surpass or excel in Latin and was named in a nod to Colchester’s Roman heritage.