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SOMERSET: Frome artwork destroyed

SOMERSET: Frome artwork destroyed

CREDIT: Barry Cooper.

The ‘Last Tree Dreaming’ sculpture was erected within the grounds of Frome College in mid-2016, featuring drawings from local young people.

The tree was cut down on September 11 in what the artists behind it described as an act of “bureaucratic vandalism”.

Somerset County Council said it had provided the college with advice and different options for the sculpture, with the college taking the final decision.

The 60-foot sculpture was erected near the B3090 Bath Road within the Frome College grounds, created from a tree which fell during a gale in Stourhead in January 2013.

The tree was sourced from an area planted by renowned landscape painter J.  M. W. Turner in 1798, and was erected within the college grounds in August 2016.

More than £50,000 was raised to fund the project, including contributions from the Heritage Lottery’s young roots programme, and at least 500 young people took part, carving their dreams and aspirations into the wood.

Artist Barry Cooper said the tree was cut down between 8am and 9am on the morning of September 11, with the college’s newsletter from two days later claiming it had been “identified by the local authority as suffering from decomposition”.

The wood from the tree has been retained, with the college stating it would “aim to reshape this iconic work”.

Mr Cooper said that neither he nor his team were given any notice of the tree being felled, only finding out about it after the event from a neighbour of the college.

He added: “We now know that it was condemned in a tree risk and safety report dated May 6, which was released to Frome College on June 18.

“The college had almost three months to inform the team. who could have advised on a safe way to preserve the students’ work.”

Mr Cooper said that numerous experts had declared the sculpture to be “100 per cent safe” to the public – including Grant Gellatly (the engineer behind its original construction) and Professor Richard Harris from Bath University, who one awards for his work on the Globe Theatre in London.

Mr Cooper said: “If the sculpture is found to have been entirely sound at the time it was cut down, we feel the duty of care has not been fulfilled by those responsible for the decision.

“If this is the case, we also feel it is most certainly morally incumbent on them to provide full financial restitution for this act.

“A new sculpture should be commissioned on the site – one which honours the past history of the work, fully recognises the deed that was done on
September 11,, and creates a lasting and healing piece appropriately addressing the catastrophic environmental issues of our time.”

Somerset County Council said it had provided advice to Frome College through its Support Service for Education (SSE) team, but that the college itself had taken the final decision.

A spokesman said: “The tree and risk safety service provided by our SSE team is advisory only, and bought by education providers.

“Any decision on what action to take, when to carry it out, and who to inform is made by them, not by our service.

“Our role is to assess the structural integrity of trees, alive or dead, and make a judgement based on the risk to students and staff and suggest options to the education provider.

“In this instance we stand by the concerns flagged by the team, but to be clear removal was one of two suggested options – an option to keep the tree with some mitigation measures was also suggested.

“The school has a duty of care to students, staff and visitors and decided to take action to remove the risk. We support them in that decision.”

Words:  Daniel Mumby, Local Democracy Reporter


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