Artist Faye Claridge to "disguise” Darby's Iron Bridge in Coalbrookdale with multicoloured rags

By Jack Bell | 08 October 2015

Abraham Darby's Iron Bridge is about to be transformed into an art installation of many colours

A photograph of an Iron Bridge with a church in the background.
The Iron Bridge in Ironbridge Gorge
Anyone attending the Ironbridge Gorge World Heritage Site this weekend will be in for an artistic surprise as the Iron Bridge itself will be covered in hundreds of multi coloured rags.

Installation of the rags onto the bridge, as part of a project called Weighty Friend, begins at 10am on Saturday October 10 under the guidance of local artist Faye Claridge.

The unusual project marks the anniversary of the beginning of the Industrial Revolution in Coalbrookdale and in particular the contribution of women from the Darby family to the world-changing events in Shropshire where Abraham Darby began smelting iron on an industrial scale.

Artists and academics will gather in Coalbrookdale as part of Re-imagining the Industrial Revolution, a symposium happening alongside the installation of the rags on the Iron Bridge, which was built between 1778 and 1781 by Abraham Darby III as the world's first cast-iron bridge.

Once the rags have been attached to the bridge, with the help of around 50 volunteers, it will be left for photographers and video artists to record the event. Observers will only be able to witness this ‘spectacular’ sight for just a few minutes until the bridge is restored to its original form.

During preparations for the event, Claridge said she was “very excited” to observe the end result and promised the multi coloured strips would “soften and enliven the bridge, rippling in the breeze and reflecting rainbows in the water below.”

According to Claridge, the display of vibrant, warm and “feminine” colours will symbolise the contribution of women to the Industrial Revolution.  

Claridge has drawn inspiration from the origins of the Darby Legacy and their family stories. Being Quakers, they did not have their portraits painted, so Claridge didn’t want to create literal images for the Ironbridge event.

Other areas of inspiration were found on display at the Darby houses among the many decorations made using different craft techniques, many of which Claridge has included in the display for the event.

Describing her fondness of the Darby Family and their origins, Claridge added, “in softening, or feminising the Bridge the contribution of women in the Darby story in particular and the global industrial story in general comes to the fore, possibly for the first time”.

  • Shifting Worlds, a collaboration between Ironbridge Gorge World Museum Trust and Meadow Arts, runs the Weighty Friend event which is one of several  is one of several arts events being run by Shifting Worlds. For more details visit www.ironbridge.org.uk or www.meadowarts.org 

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