Brunel 200 Legacy Glen Eastman – Chain Reaction.
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Chain Reaction

Artist Glen Eastman worked with 285 pupils from ten schools across Bristol to celebrate Brunel’s 200th birthday by creating a huge soft sculpture inspired by the engineer’s life and achievements.

Glen is a 3D artist who visited each school for a week and began by telling the children about Brunel’s life, his tenacity for hard work (he often only snatched four hours sleep a night), his courage, vision and determination, plus his disappointments and problems as well as his triumphs and achievements.

Glen’s inspiration for the form of the sculpture came from her fascination with the 1857 photograph of Brunel standing in front of the chains used to help launch the enormous ss Great Eastern that he built towards the end of his short life.

Glen Eastman – Chain Reaction.

Glen said:

"I have had a wonderful time in each of the schools and I am absolutely delighted with all the paintings which are on lengths of fabric. At the end of the week I took the children’s work home and begin to sew each one into a tube. Then I filled it with soft stuffing and made it into a ring - join the rings together and you have a chain."

The schools taking part in this project were:

Southville Primary School
Holy Cross Catholic Primary School
St. George C of E Primary School
Whitehall Primary School
Glenfrome Primary School
Shirehampton Primary School
Henleaze Junior School
Bishopsworth Primary School
The Park Primary School
Ilminster Avenue Primary School

Clare Gundry, Head Teacher at St. George C of E Primary School said:

"The children really enjoyed doing the art work and the school are proud to have taken part in the project and we can’t wait to see the sculpture in place."

Glen wanted to have the freedom to mix and match the contributions from the ten schools. The children worked in pairs so there are 143 rings in total. In the exhibition space they are displayed in nine five-metre long chains. Glen said "when the children come on their school visit, half the fun will be in trying to spot where their work is in the sculpture."

There was a display alongside the soft sculpture installation with the names of each pupil plus a brief description about their painting. By reading the children’s text the visitor gained knowledge about the life and achievements of Brunel.

The sculpture was exhibited as part of the Nine Lives of Brunel exhibition at the ss Great Britain and was open for seven months from 1 April to October 2006.

Photography: Mark Simmons.