Public art

Three spectacular pieces of public art will stand at the heart of the new-look Kirkby Town Centre.

Edward's Elephant arrives in KirkbyThe stunning tree, thrones and elephant create a character and vibe which is as unique as Kirkby itself.

The art has been created with Kirkby’s culture and heritage in mind and celebrates the individuality of the town and its people.

Local school children, community groups and members of the public have embraced the art with incredible enthusiasm and worked closely with the artist - Geoff Wood, from Working pArts - throughout the process.

The public art creates a distinctive new identity for the new-look town centre and both celebrates its past and looks forward to the future.


We have successfully used public art elsewhere in Knowsley to bring our communities together and create a sense of uniqueness and pride.

It creates an opportunity for the expression of ideas, thoughts, aspirations and values and is cherished by those who have been part of its creation and those who experience it as they go about their daily lives.Playwright Willy Russell on the Kirkby Thrones

Public art has always been envisaged as a key part of the overall Kirkby regeneration programme. Many town centres across the country have successfully used public art to create a sense of identity, and Kirkby should benefit in the same way.

Public art is designed to enhance and improve the environment and public realm, bringing identity to the physical regeneration scheme and engaging communities in the creation of their new town centre.

We invited artists and art organisations to bid for the contract to deliver the project. Following a competitive tender exercise, the creative organisation, Working pArts, was appointed in 2012.

The overall cost of creating the three pieces of public art is £320,000, most of which has been funded from sources outside of Knowsley Council. Tesco contributed £100,000 towards the cost, with £120,000 coming from other external funding. 

This external funding was awarded specifically for public art and therefore the £220,000 external contribution could not have been spent on anything else.  In effect, the Council spent £100,000 to secure an additional £220,000 of investment to enhance the appearance of the town centre – we tripled our investment in Kirkby.

Working with the communityEdward's Elephant is joined by Cllr Eddie Connor and Kirkby C of E School Children

One of the most important parts of the process was working with and engaging as many members of the local community as possible.

The local community has been involved in the public art project from the start. Even before Working pArts was commissioned, a local artist spoke with members of the community to find out what residents thought about public art and what kind of pieces they would like to see in Kirkby town centre.

Using that feedback from the community, Working pArts began a comprehensive engagement process in September 2012. This involved:

  • Workshops for the local community;
  • Displays and further information in public buildings;
  • Public meetings;
  • Events in Kirkby town centre; and
  • Promotion of the public art through a range of media and social media channels.

Through this process, local people suggested ideas, memories, ambitions and characteristics of Kirkby for the project.

Working pArts used those suggestions and creatively translated them into the designs for the new public art.

Kirkby thrones school girl sitting on one of the Kirkby Thrones

The three spectacular thrones sit in Civic Square, outside the Kirkby Centre.

They provide a meeting point in the town centre and somewhere for people to sit, on the smooth and cushioned contours of the armchairs.

Each of the thrones has distinctive feet and wings. These features emerged from the conversations with local residents, who fondly recalled rooms in old local buildings being named after birds of prey.

The wings are also inspired by the idea of letting your imagination take flight. Local people, particularly children, can enjoy reading and storytelling on the thrones, which will provide a backdrop for events, drama and school visits.

The thrones have really caught people’s imagination and they have been queuing up to have pictures on the thrones. We’d love to see your pictures of the thrones – you can post them to our Facebook page or share them on Twitter using #KirkbyThrones.

Edward’s Elephant

The stunning Edward’s Elephant stands at the heart of the new-look Kirkby town centre.Edward's Elephant

Enthusiastically embraced by schools and community groups, the artwork is inspired by Kirkby’s Norse heritage and the poetry of Edward Lear.

The three metre high steel elephant stands on a Viking longboat which is over 11 metres long.

The Viking longboat reflects Kirkby’s Norse heritage, while the elephant itself is inspired by Lear’s poetry: “The enthusiastic elephant who ferried himself across the water with the kitchen poker and a new pair of earrings.”

Lear’s links with Knowsley date back to 1832, when he was invited to draw the Earl of Derby’s menagerie of animals at Knowsley Hall.

The Asian elephant is made of cold forged steel. As in the poem, it wears earrings and holds aloft a kitchen poker. The boat it stands upon is 40cm high and over 11m long.

Local school children and community groups created messages and memories of Kirkby which are carried on the boat as cargo.

People have created eye-catching jewellery for the elephant to wear.

Edward’s Elephant was given a fantastic Kirkby welcome by children at Kirkby C of E Primary School when it arrived in the town for the first time.

The TreeTree

The tree, in Newtown Gardens, was the first of the three pieces of public art to be installed.

The concept was developed following discussions with community groups who said they wanted somewhere to meet, some seating and some shelter from the rain.

At the same time, one of the oldest trees in Knowsley – thought to be over 400 years old - was due to be felled for safety reasons.

A cast of the tree was  taken and turned into a spectacular six metre high cast iron piece of art which carries the unique contours and character of the original tree.

Local primary school children were also instrumental in the creation of the tree, adding their own personal wishes onto leaves which form temporary features on the tree.

The children also developed a time capsule which was ‘planted’ in the bark of the tree.

Throughout the process, residents from across Kirkby have given us fantastic feedback on the tree:

“Eye-catching and different.”
“This public art will really put Kirkby on the map.”
“Everybody likes trees. What a good idea!”
“It’s an awesome tree.”
“I love the discus. It makes the tree that bit more special.”

Public art films

Take a look at our series of short films to see how Kirkby community groups and schools helped to bring Edward’s Elephant to life.

Introducing Edward's Elephant

Introducing Edward's Elephant

Developing Kirkby's Public Art

Developing Kirkby’s public art

The making of Edward's Elephant

The making of Edward’s Elephant

The story of the Kirkby tree

The story of the Kirkby tree

The thrones

Kirkby throne film footage

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