Is it a bird? Is it a plane? Nope, it’s a whole lotta moth.
The Amy Johnson Festival celebrates the legacy of pioneering aviator (and proud Hull girl) Amy Johnson, the first female pilot to fly alone from Britain to Australia. The team at the festival are now well into the next stages of their fabulous mass engagement project A Moth for Amy. This new public art installation has been developed after the success of Larkin with Toads, which highlighted the importance of the poet Philip Larkin to Hull while helping to change people’s perceptions of art within the city. A Moth for Amy aims to achieve similar goals to the toads, by telling Amy Johnson’s story and highlighting her significance through the production of a large group of stunning and wonderfully decorated moth sculptures.
The moths, which will be approx 1.5m in width, will be placed on the facades of several buildings and areas of importance across Hull, the UK and beyond. The prototypes for the moths, designed by Skipsea-based sculptor Saffron Waghorn, have now been designed and are in the late stages of being assembled on a farm on the outskirts of Tunbridge Wells by Spur, specialists in the manufacture of props and sculptures.
The inspiration for the moth design developed through the idea that Amy Johnson had flown a de Havilland Gipsy Moth plane to Australia amongst many other de Havilland Moths during her flying career. Given how important the de Haviland Moths were to Amy as a pilot, these new moths are a great tribute to the woman and her work.
All of the moth sculptures will be made out of fibreglass and will soon be decorated by artists who submitted their designs during the early stages of the project, which all have their own completely unique decoration. Each of these designs has been inspired by Amy Johnson and the legacy she has left upon the city of Hull. A range of wonderful designs were submitted, ranging from Pinky’s graffiti-style designs to one moth completely covered in crystals. The designs were eventually shortlisted to 130 from the 200 submissions received, and will now be whisked off to the artists’ studios where they’ll begin to decorate them with their own unique designs. To make sure they’re ultra sturdy, the moths have also recently been tested out for their durability to ensure they’re able to hang from each building safely.
Testing the moths – photo courtesy of the Amy Johnson Festival.
So far, there has been a huge amount of interest in the design process for the moths. Clare Huby, Project Manager of A Moth for Amy has announced the project are taking sponsors up until May, giving artists the chance to get the ball rolling and work on their designs in time for the festival. Clare’s experience working on the project is something she feels ‘has been an absolute pleasure so far’, and she reflects ‘it will be interesting to see how people respond to the work’.
Given the difference in set-up to Larkin with Toads, which notably gave people the ability to interact with the work, the moths will connect with the audience through their striking presence and distinct locations. The moths also hope to stick around for the city’s celebrations as UK City of Culture in 2017.
Another fantastic aim of the project is that all money raised when the moths go into public auction (if not bought from their sponsors) will be given to charities managed by their local partner Hey Smile Foundation and other supporting local arts projects. Clare has noted that working with these partners has made the project fun to work on, since there’s a really ‘can do’ attitude about the mindsets of these local businesses. Strata Holdings (who are making the fixtures for the moths to attach to the walls) and Ideal Standard (who worked closely with Saffron to advise on locations for the moths) are prime examples. Clare added that ‘we had expert advice right from the beginning’, particularly due to ‘Hull’s fantastic knowledge of engineering’.
Although the locations aren’t yet final, Clare and the team will be spreading these out to places of significance to Amy and their own choice of locations. These include at least two moths in the Beverley area, Hull City Centre including the Marina, The Science Museum in London, and even as far afield as Australia and Singapore, with the possibility of more locations on Amy’s route. There’ll also be a handy app which will allow people to track down the location of their nearest moth.
Clare believes ‘Amy’s achievements were amazing for the time she was alive, she was a true Hull girl who always said “Don’t tell me I can’t do this” and she really did’.
The Amy Johnson Festival runs from 1 July – 6 September 2016.