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Work underway to transform Llangollen Bridge into giant artwork for eisteddfod

International artist Luke Jerram is working with 800 pieces of fabric to transform the famous Llangollen Bridge into a giant artwork celebrating peace.

Artist Luke Jerram stands in front of Llangollen Bridge
Artist Luke Jerram stands in front of Llangollen Bridge

Luke plans to wrap the Grade I listed stone bridge in a giant patchwork of fabrics, reflecting the crafts and cultures of Wales, as part of the world-renowned Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod.

Called 'Bridges, Not Walls', the artwork celebrates the idea of peace on which the festival was founded nearly 75 years ago.

In a race against time, 800 squares of one metre-wide fabric, including local donations from Llangollen, are currently being stitched together to cover both sides of the 60 metre-long bridge.

How ‘Bridges, Not Walls' will look when finished

With the panels of the archways almost complete, work will soon start on the material to cover the bridge's stanchions, or columns, which stand in the water and support the bridge above.

Known for public art installations around the world including Museum of the Moon, Play Me, I'm Yours - which brought street pianos to dozens of international cities - and his recent Glass Microbiology sculptures depicting coronavirus and its vaccine, this is the first commission in Wales for Luke, who completed his degree at Cardiff Metropolitan University.

While the Llangollen eisteddfod will mainly be held online this year, organisers hope the eye-catching Bridges, Not Walls will also attract people to visit the town this summer.

Luke Jerram's new bridge artwork will connect and extend the eisteddfod's creativity out from the field where it is normally held each year into the town, transforming and animating Llangollen for the whole world to see.

Emma Williams stitches fabric squares together

Luke said: "From the moment I saw it, Llangollen Bridge struck me as incredibly powerful, both physically and symbolically. The message and celebration of peace is at the heart of the Llangollen eisteddfod and so this historic bridge, one of the seven wonders of Wales, makes the perfect canvas.

"As Sir Isaac Newton once said, 'We build too many walls and not enough bridges'. From Israel to the USA, we are at last exploring the possibility of building bridges rather than walls."

Held in Llangollen every summer since 1947, the eisteddfod is an international cultural festival with a world-class diverse programme that celebrates a message of international peace and friendship through singing, dancing and performance.

Usually attracting more than 4,000 performers from around the world and 35,000 visitors to Llangollen, this year's unique celebration of global peace and harmony will be largely held online in July 2021, with the main programme being presented over the weekend of July 9 to 11.

Patchwork panels of ‘Bridges, Not Walls' Llangollen Bridge artwork by artist Luke Jerram

Bridges, Not Walls will remain in place on Llangollen Bridge until August 5.

Betsan Moses, chief executive of Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod added: "We're hugely excited about Bridges, Not Walls which celebrates everything Llangollen's much-loved eisteddfod stands for; peace, creativity and togetherness. We're looking forward to sharing a varied and inspiring programme of events online this year and we hope Luke's artwork will also encourage people to visit the historic town over the summer."

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