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Restoration efforts for town fountain gathering momentum

Improving Ilkley is excited to announce that its efforts to restore the town's fountain are taking shape.

For over eighteen months, Improving Ilkley has conducted various investigations and developed a design with advice from a series of local experts and agencies to the point where Phase One of the design can shortly start on-site.

Phase One includes the refurbishment of the existing base, the construction of a gravity fed water supply, with water taken from further up Mill Ghyll, and the installation of a new sculptural fountain.

The scheme has undoubtedly felt the effects of inflation as the price of basic materials has trebled in the past six months, but the final phase of fundraising is now underway to allow work to start later this year. Improving Ilkley is satisfied that they can deliver a safe and sustainable fountain that once again can take pride of place at the top of Brook Street.

As the original design could not be replicated and would not meet modern safety or hygiene standards, Improving Ilkley ran a public competition in early 2023 asking professional local artists to design a new fountain as a centrepiece to the work.

The competition received seventeen expressions of interest, and an expert panel then selected three designs for public consultation. After reviewing all the feedback, they determined which design best fit the vision and needs of the community. Local artist and member of the Royal Society of Sculptors Juliet Gutch won the commission. Juliet’s work, which she makes with her husband, Jamie Gutch, is exhibited regularly with the London gallery jaggedart and their work is currently on display at the Wordsworth Museum in the Lakes, alongside permanent larger-scale installations in various hospitals and at John Lewis Stratford, East London.

Since being selected, Juliet and Jamie have been working closely with Improving Ilkley, engineers, architects and fabricators to turn their idea, for which the inspiration was sphagnum moss found on Ilkley Moor, into a bespoke fountain that will be robust, low-maintenance and beautiful.

Juliet and Jamie's original winning design idea

Juliet and Jamie explain the concept behind the design: “Ilkley Moor defines Ilkley. The plant which is essential for forming the peat and bogs which are so characteristic of our moor is sphagnum moss. Our proposal for the central feature of Ilkley’s fountain is to celebrate the sphagnum moss on Ilkley Moor, its affinity with water, how it links us to the past and how, if cared for, can contribute to a balanced and sustainable future. While the original fountain, which was built in 1865, reflected the optimism of that time, this fountain, characterized by a simple connection with nature, aims to impart a sense of hope but also an understanding of the responsibilities that come with that. It has been a pleasure and a privilege to work with Improving Ilkley on this project, not least because it has been a truly collaborative process which in itself seems to reflect the spirit of the concept.”

Ian White, Chair of Ilkley BID said: Ilkley BID is delighted to provide financial support to facilitate the restoration of the fountain and well done to Improving Ilkley for their commitment and determination to progress this important project. The fountain will create an amazing legacy for the town providing enjoyment to residents and visitors for many years to come and we are happy to be involved.”

As part of local consultations, Improving Ilkley has spoken with community groups and cultural organisations about the inclusion of an open-air performance space in the final redevelopment.

Ilkley Literature Festival Director Erica Morris said: “The idea of a free to access space for cultural performances right in the heart of Ilkley is an exciting one. We can see opportunities for spoken word and poetry events which celebrate the town’s rich history of literature and creative writing.”

Louise Hepworth-Wood, Trustee Improving Ilkley said: “We are really proud to have engaged with many different stakeholders and members of the public as well as the artists to find a design which feels right in the space and, importantly, resonates with our time. After a great deal of time and consideration, collectively we feel as if it is all worth it and cannot wait to see the fountain in situ. As well as sharing an important message about our precious local landscape, we hope that the fountain will provide a special focal point for the community of Ilkley in the years to come.”

Construction will begin in August 2023 and is expected to be completed in the autumn. Fundraising for Phase Two, which includes redevelopment of the landscape around the new fountain, will continue.

Louise added: "Contributions to the Ilkley fountain project will be very gratefully received. For further information on any aspect of the project, please contact us via email, a funding pack is available."

Text to Donate:

Text FOUNTAIN to 70450 to donate £20.

Text IMPROVINGILKLEY on 70085 to donate £10


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