‘TUNNEL VISION’ (Ovingdean pedestrian subway project)

To commemorate the Queen¹s Diamond Jubilee, Ovingdean Residents & Preservation Society (ORPS) initiated a project to refurbish the pedestrian subway which runs beneath the A259 coast road, allowing access to the beach and the under-cliff walk at Ovingdean Gap.

For many years the subway had been neglected – the painted murals on its walls had become shabby and dirty, a poor reflection on the scenic location and the local community.
Jay Butler, Creative Director of Brighton based design agency Be Creative and Ovingdean resident, proposed that the subway should be re-furbished with images of local fauna – birds, crustaceans, fish and molluscs which reside at Ovingdean Gap and the wildlife, insects, birds and mammals to be found on the nearby Beacon Hill nature reserve.  - this would be both attractive and educational for the many young children who pass through the tunnel to go ‘rock pooling’ with their parents.  His vision was to create a walk-through museum come art gallery and volunteered to donate all design and artwork for the project.
At an on-site meeting between ORPS committee members and representatives of the council including Chief Executive, John Barradell; Councillor Mary Mears suggested that the refurbishment be carried out in commemoration of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee – as such, wider community involvement should be sought. Subsequently, a second phase to the project was proposed involving an art competition aimed at local school children – the winners of which will be produced similarly as large format graphic images and put on permanent display in the subway alongside the original 30 images.  Details of the competition will be announced to local schools in the autumn term.
The wildlife images which will adorn the walls are digital composites rendered as watercolour paintings and displayed on large circular weatherproof panels. The final ‘illustrations’ each involve several source images, many supplied by wildlife photographers, David Element and Paul Gorringe with additional photography by Jay Butler.  Jay’s idea was to create striking images depicting various wildlife species in the local habitat and to supplement these with interesting facts. Charlie Yates. Ranger at Beacon Hill nature reserve helped Jay to research and edit the captions to the panels.
ORPS committee members, Bernadette Skinner and Nadia Itkin have been vociferous in seeking funding for the project. To date Southern Water, Ovingdean International Language College and PARC (local children’ charity) as well as Ovingdean residents have all donated to the appeal for funds enabling stage one of the project to go ahead. Further donations are sought to underwrite stage two, the children’s’ competition and Jay would particularly like to hear from  companies willing to contribute or sponsor suitable prizes for this (jay@becreative.co.uk).

The subway has been cleaned and freshly painted in readiness for the official opening at 10am Saturday 2nd June. In the afternoon (from 3pm) ORPS have arranged a ‘Rockpool Ramble’ at Ovingdean Gap beach  led by Gerald Legg of the Booth Museum. Children of all ages are welcome and participation free, although donations toward stage two of the subway project would be most welcome.

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