Hope and Renewal are what we at SAFE are all about when it comes to supporting people affected by domestic abuse.

 So when we were asked to get involved with a local arts project with that theme, we jumped at the chance.

 We were contacted by a Honiton-based sculptor, Martin Staniforth, who was among the many thousands of people shocked and upset by the near-destruction of Exeter’s historic Royal Clarence Hotel on Cathedral Green in a massive fire last October. But Martin wanted to create a piece of art that focused not on devastation, but on recovery and hope for the future.

Charred timber turned into art

 He obtained around a tonne of burned and charred timber from the wreckage of the hotel and successfully applied to the Devon Community Foundation for a grant to fund the project. Then he approached SAFE to see if people who’d been helped by us would like to take part in a creative workshop, contributing ideas based on their own feelings and experiences to the design of the sculpture.

 At the end of April SAFE’s volunteer co-ordinator Sarah Richards and Martin Staniforth jointly ran the workshop – which also included people supported by the head injuries charity Headway - and the sculpture was unveiled on Cathedral Green on May 13th.

The message of the sculpture

Martin said, “Some of these timbers came from trees that grew in the 1500s. Rather than be thrown away, this wood now has a new life.

“The theme of 'Hope & Renewal' explores how, after disaster, there is always something else. Life moves on. This project resonates with people on an individual basis, a community basis and, perhaps, on a global basis too. There is a lot going on in the world right now that speaks to this theme. Several charities have also embraced the concept for the way it can support individuals on a journey of recovery.”

“Many people have been visibly moved by the theme and are hugely grateful that a substantial tribute has been created.  On viewing the piece, some are reminded of a phoenix, some of a shipwreck reaching up to the sky, some of an organic growing form.”

Where to see it

The sculpture will go on display at Powderham Castle from June 16 until July 16th, and in Teignmouth near the lighthouse from July 22 - Sep 13 as part of TRAIL.  Other locations are being considered too, and a smaller version is being considered, to be placed in a permanent location in Exeter.

Photographers join the project

 As part of the Hope and Renewal project, Martin also ran a photography competition, inviting entries from photographers exploring the same theme. The winning pictures go on display at a private view on Friday 9th June and the free exhibition runs at the CoLab at Exeter CVS in King William Street from June 12th-16th.  It will also be in Teignmouth from July 22nd until September 13th.  Other gallery spaces are confirming if they can take the photos and everyone is welcome to suggest where and when the photos could appear.

* Photo taken by Rhodri Cooper: Martin Staniforth is front row far left, Ben Bradshaw centre, Sarah Richards, Jacinta Wainwright and Kate Tompsett from SAFE are front row far right.