Meremaids ‘in the swim’ for national award
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A community art initiative in Ellesmere featuring a ‘flotilla’ of mermaid figures has been shortlisted for a national award.
More than ninety brightly-decorated creatures from the deep were put on show around the town centre this summer in a bid to attract more visitors, boost trade and encourage people to get involved with local library activities.
Now, the project, led by Ellesmere library assistant Sally Poynton, has been chosen by the Libraries Connected charity for the finals of its first annual awards, celebrating the achievements of people working in libraries.
It is one of six ‘inspiring’ nominations shortlisted in the culture and creativity category. The winner will be announced at the charity’s annual seminar in Bedfordshire on October 19/20.
Ellesmere library, close to the town centre, is housed in the Our Space community centre run by the social care charity Bethphage and supported by Shropshire Council’s library service. The project was nominated by team librarian Heather Rodenhurst.
Sally, who came up with the idea before last year’s pandemic lock-down and spent months working on the project in her own time, said she was ‘surprised and delighted’. She said:
“It’s wonderful that this great community effort has been recognised nationally and it’s a tribute to everyone involved. All those who have supported the project in so many ways should feel very proud. I’m looking forward to the awards ceremony in October. We’re competing against some very outstanding projects in other parts of the country, so even to be shortlisted is a great achievement.”
Using a template, Sally and her husband Alan spent countless hours cutting out MDF mermaid-shaped figures and handing them out for volunteers, including schoolchildren and community groups, to decorate individually with their own designs.
More than 40 shops and other businesses joined together to showcase the colourful artworks, creating an eye-catching figure-of-eight ‘mere-maid’ trail around Ellesmere town centre, taking in the town hall, library, medical centre, pubs and local churches.
Locals and visitors were invited to compete in a ‘spot the meremaid’ competition, and the festival also featured visits by professional mermaid performer Jeni Hall from Gobwen who took part in children’s events supporting the library’s summer reading challenge.
A spokesman for Libraries Connected, which was launched by the Society of Chief Librarians with support from Arts Council England, said:
“Ellesmere Library’s Meremaid Trail initiative has boosted community connections, tourism, literacy and the local economy in one fell swoop this summer. This was a real community effort designed to draw visitors from the main mereside beauty spot into the small market town to see what’s on offer from local independent traders badly hit by the pandemic.”
Councillor Geoff Elner, local member for Ellesmere Urban added:
“I would like on behalf of the community to say a massive thank you to Ellesmere Library and in particular to Sally Poynton and her team which she inspired to design and make this project so successful.
“They have not only brought the community together at such an important time after lockdown but have attracted and entertained so many families from far and wide and provided yet another reason to come and visit Ellesmere and to explore the town and its beautiful countryside
“I have no doubt that the magical Meremaid Trail will become a regular occurrence.
“This is a really fantastic achievement and we are all so very proud of her and her team, we wish them the very best of luck at the awards and look forward to welcoming many more ‘Meremaids’ in the future.”
Councillor Cecilia Motley, Shropshire Council’s Cabinet Member for Communities, Place, Tourism and Transport said:
“I’m delighted that Ellesmere Library’s Meremaid Trail has been shortlisted for the Libraries Connected awards.
“It’s creative and fun initiatives like this that capture the imagination and really bring together local communities. It’s fantastic to see the community response to this project. The fact that it’s been recognised nationally, is a testament to the dedication and hard work of our library staff, volunteers and local community.
“I wish everyone all the very best of luck at the awards.”