The Derby Ram Trail to take over the city in the summer
- Credit: Derby Museums
Discovering the city’s spectacular new sculpture trail.
A treasured landmark since its installation by sculptor Michael Pegler in 1995, Derby’s iconic stone ram sculpture is set to inspire a new generation of artists through its adaption into a new city sculpture trail.
Carved from Derbyshire-quarried Birchover Millstone Grit stone and weighing around 11 tonnes, this magnificent sculpture is the inspiration for 30 newly-formed reworked ram designs - each featuring vibrant decorative artworks designed to lead visitors through an outdoor four-mile free sculpture trail.
The rams will meander through many of the city’s recognisable landmarks such as Derby’s Cathedral, the new Museum of Making (on the site of Derby Silk Mill) and Derby Museum and Art Gallery.
They will also be found amongst a number of historical buildings in lesser-known areas of the city.
The original ram design, as sculptor Michael explains, was carefully researched and designed to represent the words of a memorable 18th century ballad.
‘I considered a variety of sources of significant imagery for Derby and discovered The Ballad of the Derby Ram,’ he recalls.
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‘Through drawings and clay maquettes, I designed forms that explored the verses of the ballad. The thought was that the power of such abstraction also represented or implied the mythical power of the subject.
‘As well as the shapes within the design, the choice of stone was significant as it would be symbolic of the enduring story of the Derbyshire landscape from which one could imagine such a mythical creature might be associated and emerge in folklore.’
Working with the Derby Ram Trail project team, Michael created a new ram design, intended to create a backdrop for decorative painted artwork.
‘The redesigned forms include flowing shapes which provide large continuous surfaces for painting and the original design was adapted to allow a broader scope for painters to express themselves,’ says Michael.
‘We also had to make sure the important forms which were evocative of the Derby Ram myth weren’t lost.’
Following a process of experimentation and refinement of clay models, a final design was delivered to the trail’s partners Wild in Art, who, using advanced technology and expertise, created moulds for the new fibre glass rams to be showcased in Derby’s sculpture trail.
Charlie Langhorne, Wild in Art co-founder and managing director, describes his passion in working with artists and how their sculpture trails have benefited communities.
‘We work with amazing artists and take art from the traditional settings of galleries and place in high profile, publicly accessible locations, creating trails the public can engage with.
‘Our trails give the community a shared conversation, provide a common point of connection and encourage the public to discover, or re-discover, all of a city’s offer.
‘Ultimately though, our sculptures make people smile - and in these times that’s very special.’
Charlie has been fortunate to have worked with partners from across the globe and worked on public art projects during the 2012 London Olympic Games.
‘We were approached by Derby Museums about a new sculpture trail and are delighted to be working in the city - one of the great things about my role is seeing lots of different cities and I’m looking forward to discovering Derby.’
Tony Butler, executive director of Derby Museums, explains the Derby’s Ram Trail has been several years in the making and has engaged many local organisations.
‘It’s been a considerable endeavour, with our team involved in a range of activities from selling sponsorship, recruiting artists, liaising with the local council on the route to generating excitement - Derby Museums is the first cultural organisation in the country to lead one of these trails.
‘There’s a really varied group of organisations from large corporations like Rolls-Royce to small businesses like The Flowerpot, and institutions such as the University of Derby. We received over 180 artist submissions which were shortlisted to 30.’
Tony explains that through a sponsors ‘match-making’ event, local businesses chose to sponsor their preferred design typically based upon business values or links to their products, and that after the trail ends in August, the sculptures will be auctioned to raise money for the Derby Museums’ Endowment Fund.
The attractive and thoughtful Derbyshire-themed ram designs, Tony explains, include work from a variety of established and emerging artists.
‘Donna Newman has been part of over 45 sculpture trails and has previously raised over £150,000 at auction, although some artists are emerging or are producing public, outdoor work for the first time.’
Many of the artworks, he says, include landmarks of Derby and Derbyshire, with one featuring the landscape of the Peak District with paths crossing fields, moors, streams and waterfalls.
Some depict historical figures such as Derby-born John Flamsteed, the first astronomer royal in the 17th century, and acclaimed artist Joseph Wright of Derby.
‘The rams are inspired by the landscape, people and ideas which have shaped our community and the variety of designs connect the city’s story and businesses, this should make people feel very proud of Derby,’ says Tony.
‘They will also showcase the rich story of the city as a place of creativity, making, discovery and industry, set close to beautiful and varied countryside.’
One of the ram designs features the work of award-winning artist, public speaker and digital influencer Amrit Singh.
Previously a graphic designer, with over a decade of experience within design and advertising, Amrit’s bold and intricate designs have been showcased globally in over 20 exhibitions ranging from Trafalgar Square to San Francisco.
‘A lot of people feel disconnected from art,’ argues Amrit.
‘Public art trails provide a way to connect to art whilst rediscovering your city; I hope my designs celebrate cultural diversity and the talent of the region.’
Amrit explains that at the beginning of any city sculptural design, he researches what the location is renowned for and incorporates this into his artwork.
Next, he digitally designs each section through a complex and unique grid-based system which, through a series of interconnecting shapes, complement the style and contours of the sculpture.
‘I focus on vibrant, bold tones and detailed patterns to create an explosion of colour which will stand out on a sculpture trail,’ says Amrit.
‘To increase the vibrancy of my ram sculpture, I used a pearlescent base and added layers of bright colours and glitter to shimmer in the sunlight.’
Another eye-catching ram design features the work of Derby-based Sri Lankan artist Sarita Gnaniah.
‘As a child there weren’t many opportunities to study art – I used any medium available to create artwork, such as scraps of paper and clay’ she recalls.
Throughout her career as an auditor and in finance, Sarita’s passion for design remained. She studied at the New York School of Design before moving to Derby in 2016 and recently established an art studio in Darley Abbey.
Her ram artwork, painted in acrylic, took four weeks to complete and was inspired by the city’s industrial background.
‘When I started, I thought of Derby’s links to engineering, the railways and its major role in the industrial revolution,’ she explains.
‘I wanted to show this in my design, and hopefully encourage younger generations to support these industries by demonstrating the high level of technology used in these businesses.
‘I also want the public to feel proud of the city we live in and understand the value which Derby brings to the country and internationally.’
Sarita feels the Derby Ram Trail will also play an important role in bringing people together.
‘Art is a common language spoken by all nationalities, age groups and backgrounds,’ suggests Sarita. ‘It’s wonderful to encourage people to go outdoors and rediscover the city.’
The Derby Ram Trail runs from May 27 to August 22. For more information, visit www.derbyramtrail.org