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Novelist to record history of barracks site

A local novelist has been awarded a grant to document the sights, sounds and history of a former barracks before its possible development into a new town.

Waterbeach placemaking project with artists from left Richard Youell, Guinevere Glasfurd-Brown and Gideon Paine. Picture: Keith Heppell. (6840199)
Waterbeach placemaking project with artists from left Richard Youell, Guinevere Glasfurd-Brown and Gideon Paine. Picture: Keith Heppell. (6840199)

Planning applications are currently being considered for redevelopment of land to the north of Waterbeach, including the former barracks site to become a new town.

Now Guinevere Glasfurd, who was shortlisted for the Costa First Novel Award, has been awarded Arts Council funding for a ‘placemaking’ project about the site with the help of four other artists.

Guinevere said: “In the past decade, we've seen the site move from working barracks, to being earmarked for development, and now into the later stages of the planning process for a new town. Should planning succeed, a new town will be built of up to 12,000 new homes and approximately 33,000 residents. Whilst many acknowledge that there is desperate need for housing, especially affordable housing, the reality of a new town on a fen edge location is nonetheless challenging.

“I am interested in how the arts can help build a bridge between the existing community of Waterbeach and the new town.”

Developer, Urban & Civic, have given their support for the project and have allowed the artists access to the Barracks. They have submitted an outline planning application to South Cambs District Council for up to 6,500 dwellings (including up to 600 residential institutional units), business, retail, community, leisure and sports uses; a hotel; new primary and secondary schools; green open spaces including parks, ecological areas and woodlands. An outline application for up to 4500 dwellings has also been made by RLW Estates.

Guinevere says: “I'll be working with four local artists: Chris Evans, Gideon Paine, Theo Gayer-Anderson and Richard Youell. One idea is to capture memories of the Barracks -- from those who were stationed there, as well as from Waterbeach villagers -- to create an installation of voices to stand amongst and listen to. Another idea is to record the sounds of the buildings before they are demolished, to create an archive that could be incorporated across Waterbeach village and the new town.

“At the moment, the site is substantially wild. That transition from wild site to new town is hugely important to capture. I've just started as writer in residence at Wicken Fen and will be there until August this year, working on a non-fiction book about the Fen. Although separate to the Waterbeach Barracks' project, I am interested in how the two pieces of work overlap.”

The Arts Council grant was awarded under the Developing Your Creative Practice funding stream. Guinevere hopes to have work to exhibit and for visitors to experience by December.

A spokesperson for developers Urban & Civic said: "The creation of a new place and new community is a major undertaking and inevitably the planning process focusses on transport, delivery of schools, health, green spaces, utilities etc. But to really think about the nature of the place, and how it fits and connects with the culture, history and identities around it, which will shape and we hope embrace it, is fundamental. We have spent much of the last 5 years pulling that into all of our local conversations and aspirations about what this new place will be.

“This project gives us a unique opportunity to explore this more fully with the local creative community, and provide new ways for people to engage with the development: building on some of the work of the Summer at the Beach events over the last few years, and finding new projects to take forward as we move from planning, into delivery. We are looking forward to exploring a wide range of opportunities from writing and storytelling, archives and public art, through to using the spaces coming forward for ongoing engagement both in the arts and in each stage of the development, and playing an active role in enhancing the cultural richness of the new community and the wider local area.”

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