The Nomad Clan have painted a giant mural in Doncaster. On the side of the Frenchgate Centre it is called ‘Futures Past and Present’. As with many murals from the Nomad Clan, artists Aylo and Cbloxx, the work features elements of local history. Tied together the piece pays tribute to different aspects of Doncasters heritage.
Already known for their large scale street murals, the piece in Doncaster is their biggest yet. In fact it may well be the largest singular street art mural in the UK. In the planning for the past few years, the start was delayed due to the pandemic. Eventually getting the green light it would take the best part of two weeks to complete.
Futures Past and Present
As is now expected from the Nomad Clan, the mural in Doncaster contains lots of references to the town. The name ‘Futures Past and Present’ also reflects this sense of history whilst also using it as a launch pad to see the future. “Our intention with this mural was to celebrate Doncaster’s remarkable historic past in industry whilst manifesting a future of creativity and diversity” says the Nomad Clan’s Cbloxx.
Both artists are proudly northern. Indeed their murals can be found across the north of England. “Many a Northern town contributed to the shape of the world as we know it” says Cbloxx. “Be it through coal, steel, steam, canals. These industries that were once a sturdy backbone to Britain are not crumbling columns of eras gone by”.
Much of Doncasters development lays particularly within it’s coal mining past. Cbloxx’s own Grandfather was a miner. Working at the nearby Bentley Colliery, the Futures Past and Present mural pays a particular homage to him and his beloved pit pony ‘Winter’. Travelling down to work each day he would descend 1750ft into the pitch darkness of the pit. The pit ponies would spend their lives down there. Hauling coal in tubs from the coal face to the haulage road and then back again. It’s a relationship which is now immortalised on the giant wall.
Other imagery Futures Past and Present pays tribute to is the Windrush Generation. A Caribbean nurse features prominently. A nod to the important role this generation played in building the NHS and supporting the development of the region after the Second World War. Between the miner and the nurse, galloping horses reference Doncaster’s equestrian history. The towns racecourse is of course one of the most famous in the UK.
Representing the rail industry on the mural is the Flying Scotman. Perhaps one of the most famous steam trains of all time it was built at the Doncaster Works in 1923. The train with it’s number 4472 became the standard bearer in terms of what modern day locomotion looked like at the time. Running mainly along the east coast line from London to Edinburgh it become a famous sight. Even now, albeit much restored it is still running and is part of the National Railway Museum in York. Doncaster’s history with rail was a key factor in the areas growth and in the powering of the industrial revolution.
Doncaster’s key role in aviation history is also recalled. A propeller plane references the nearby airport which at one time was better known as RAF Finningley. For years the airport played a key role in training pilots and this carried on throughout the latter stages of the first and throughout the Second World War. Later it became the base of the V Bomber and was a key strategic location in what would become known as the Cold War. Nowadays Finningley is better known as the Doncaster-Sheffield airport.
Nature abounds elsewhere within Futures Past and Present. Part of the wall itself is obscured by trees so the incorporation of these into the piece was always going to be required. Linking images together these trees are complimented by ivy and foliage along with white roses, the symbol of Yorkshire. “We embraced nature and where possible tried to enhance it” says Cbloxx. It references the fact that for many nature has been a silver lining in the times of lockdown and that Doncaster has a number of green spaces which are easily accessible. “The importance of green space and living things cannot be overlooked” they add. This as well as the fact that Doncaster’s growth actually depended on nature. “As we have harnessed the power of nature to advance us in industry, we in turn need to give back”.
Perhaps one of the most surprising and pleasing details within ‘Futures Past and Present’ is a reference to Doncaster’s lost Sandhouse. This was a remarkable building made entirely out of a block of sandstone within the grounds of a quarry. So remarkable was it that the building for all intents and purposes looked like it was just a normal house. Underneath the house were tunnels and caverns. Each with carvings contained within them. Sadly no longer, it was lost with the development of the Balby Bridge area. The approximate location is now the 17 storey Silverwood House. Memories remain of the tunnels in particular. They survived a bit longer than the house until they too disappeared. Today there is hope that one day some of the old tunnels will be rediscovered.
It is the carvings within the Sandhouse which are referenced in the style of painting. The image of the miner and pony, the horses and the nurse all have a sense that they could have been carved from Sandstone themselves. For the Nomad Clan it is sometimes these smaller less obvious details which set their work apart. To know that nearby such a remarkable artistic achievement once existed will have caught the imagination. A small but respectful homage to the areas artistic past.
Futures Past and Present is a mural by Hayley Garner (Aylo) and Jay Gilleard (Cbloxx) who form the Nomad Clan. It has been supported by the Art of Protest Gallery and assisted by Natasha Clark and Street Art Atlas. The mural can be found opposite the train station on Trafford Way along the side of the Frenchgate centre.