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Sculpture celebrates M&S-Groundwork partnership

Posted on 28 March 2014

Pictured: David Mayne and M&S Chairman Robert Swannell with the new sculpture in Leeds.

A new piece of public art to has been unveiled to celebrate the Greener Living Spaces partnership between Groundwork and Marks & Spencer.

The sculpture, created by Yorkshire artist David Mayne stands outside the M&S Company Archive in Leeds.

Groundwork and M&S worked to deliver M&S’s Plan A environmental policy through a joint initiative designed to reduce carrier bag use while supporting local community projects in areas of need.

In 2008, M&S introduced a 5p food carrier bag charge which raised £5.2 million in its first three years for Groundwork’s Greener Living Spaces programme, which supports people around the country to create and improve green spaces for local communities.

Over the three years of the scheme, the programme helped transform more than 100 parks, play areas and public gardens across the country, including the £200,000 Greener Living Space project in 2009 to improve Victoria Gardens in Leeds City Centre.

To mark the close of programme in 2011 and celebrate its successes, Groundwork and M&S commissioned a piece of public art at the M&S Company Archive on the Western Campus of the University of Leeds. The sculpture uses sustainable materials and is the final project to commemorate the partnership and serve as a lasting legacy of the programme’s achievements.

The 3.5m sculpture has been created using woven stainless steel wire and rod. It includes 104 discs in the shape of a 5p piece – one for each completed Greener Living Space.

David Mayne, Leeds-born artist with more than 20 years’ experience creating projects in the public realm across Yorkshire and the UK, was commissioned to create the sculpture. David specialises in public engagement and has created a number of sculptures throughout the country, including the Steel Bear at the Botanical Gardens in Sheffield.

He said: "I'm really thrilled at having the opportunity to create a piece of public art for the city I was born and brought up in. The woven stainless steel mesh hopefully connects with the textile origins of M&S while the coins on the base refer to the carrier bag scheme that made so many incredible environmental improvement projects possible."

Mike Barry, Director of Plan A at M&S, said: “Groundwork has played an important part in helping us to achieve  our Plan A commitments and we are thrilled to celebrate the successes of our Greener Living Spaces programme  with such a wonderful piece of public art. This partnership is part of the M&S legacy and so it was only fitting that the sculpture is based at the M&S Company Archive. The sculpture will be the embodiment of the work we have done throughout our partnership with Groundwork.”

Adrian Curtis, Executive Director at Groundwork Leeds, said: “The Greener Living Spaces programme illustrates what can be achieved when businesses and charities work with the public to create better places for everyone to enjoy.  This inspiring piece of art celebrates the achievements of over 10,000 people across the UK who have come together to make a difference in their communities.”

To coincide with the completion and unveiling of the sculpture, a temporary exhibition around the work of the partnership is being staged at the M&S Company Archive.

Mike Barry also delivered the latest Leeds University On Your Marks Talk, “Selling Sustainability: Why less bad’ is no longer good enough.”

Notes to Editors

The M&S Company Archive

The Michael Marks Building at the University of Leeds opened to the public for the first time in March 2012 and has been the foundation for a broader partnership with the University of Leeds.

The building is home to the ‘Marks In Time’ exhibition which tells the story of M&S over the last 130 years. The exhibition charts the company’s progress from the first buttons sold on Michael Marks’ Penny Bazaar stall in Leeds’ Kirkgate Market  to a leading international retailer. The exhibition also highlights the product innovation and business growth that have established M&S as the iconic British retailer we know today.

Public admission to the exhibition is free and there is a programme of community events throughout the year for people of all ages to participate in.

The M&S Company Archive has been deemed by independent experts as having the potential to be one of the UK’s finest corporate archives. It offers an unrivalled insight into the company’s corporate history with an extensive collection of clothing, toys, books, homeware, food packaging and company documents. 

The M&S Company Archive is of considerable value to scholars due to the economic and social importance of M&S – lending itself to a number of research projects from the evolution of the company, development of staff welfare programmes and financial performance through to the growth of the store network and the range and nature of products provided to a growing mass market.