Innovative outdoor exhibition using art in the fight against COVID-19 | Medway Council
Published: Wednesday, 31st March 2021

This week we have launched a pioneering range of contemporary public art installations to remind people of essential coronavirus messages and to thank key workers for their hard work.

We have commissioned 10 local creatives to come up with their own imaginative approach to communicating important coronavirus messages as the country opens up once again. And rise to the challenge they did.

From massive murals on the side of public buildings to virtual meetings with superheroes, QR codes which link to music, to remind people of the importance of handwashing, and an online jukebox, the installations will capture the interest and imagination and demonstrate how the creative sector can help raise awareness of vital public health messages in a number of different ways.

The works of art will be on display in more than 30 different locations all across Medway, in town centres as well as local shopping areas for people to see on their essential trips, meeting up outside or for exercise. A video has also been created which will show all the art works and feature interviews with the creatives explaining how they created their commissions allowing people to bring art into their homes.

Working with local schoolchildren

Artist Nicola Flower worked with pupils from Swingate Primary School in Lordswood to create a hand sewn textile hanging showing squirrels shopping safely. The school’s logo features a squirrel. Pupils created drawings which are featured in the piece after Nicola spoke to them about how people could shop safely during the pandemic.

Nicola said: “I was drawn to making this public commission because it was an opportunity to use art to help shoppers be safe in Medway’s high streets. I wanted my commission to include working with the community so I reconnected with Swingate Primary School, where I had worked with the children as an artist previously, I sent videos to key worker children explaining the idea for my textile hanging and they sent me drawings which I included in my design. I have loved the experience of making the textile hanging, both working with Swingate school as their 'virtual artist in residence’ and using my art to send a message to the public about shopping safely during the pandemic, having been quite poorly with coronavirus I feel passionate about everyone being safe, kind and informed.”

Inspiring others to be creative

Fairytale Entertainment and Pretending People Theatre Company have teamed up to create an online jukebox portal where people can select six different parody songs based on coronavirus safety.

Matt Salisbury, Artistic Director at Pretending People Theatre, said: “During the pandemic like all performers and creatives we have found it extremely hard to keep working, With all events and shows cancelled it was extremely disheartening. We were in a position where we either adapt or just stop and we never want to stop creating.

“We have found ways of creating work and virtual performances through all the lockdowns and when The Rainbow Effect project came up it was a perfect opportunity for us to expand on our new way of engaging with audiences. It’s really important to us that our audience can enjoy our performances as well as having access to the tools they need to learn and be creative themselves. That’s why the Human Jukebox is so exciting because hopefully it can inspire others to be creative whilst also sending home a message to keep us all safe so we can enjoy live arts again in the future.”

Young superheroes 

Fairytale Entertainment is also offering Medway’s youngest residents the chance to feel like superheroes with online zoom meetings, superhero training and games.

Becca Salisbury, Artistic Director at Fairytale Entertainment, said: “We have spent years entertaining children across the county at private parties and live events. When it all had to stop we felt terrible for the children who would miss out. Of course, everyone’s priority these days is to keep safe and healthy, so when The Rainbow Effect project came up it gave us the opportunity to create a platform where children can still personally interact with their favourite characters and embed the message about keeping safe in their community. Masks have become part of life these days and if our young audiences can feel like they are being superheroes by wearing one and sticking to government guidelines, then we feel like we have done our job.”

We have an exceptionally talented creative sector in Medway

Leader of Medway Council, Cllr Alan Jarrett, said: “I am delighted with this initiative that shows the important role that the creative industries can play in helping to communicate important messages. We have an exceptionally talented creative sector here in Medway whose industry, across the whole country, has been badly hit by the impact of coronavirus. It’s wonderful that we can use this opportunity to showcase their skills and to speak for local people as the government’s roadmap unfolds. These new, innovative installations are an important way to reinforce vital safety messages and remind people that, although there is light at the end of the tunnel, the pandemic is not over yet.”

Evolving cultural landscape 

Paul Cowell, Medway Council's Head of Culture and Libraries, whose team developed the project said: “The Rainbow Effect is an important programme that reflects Medway’s creative ambitions set in our new ten-year cultural strategy where we seek to be internationally recognised for creativity and culture. Medway is home to makers and creators, film sets and festivals, spaces and studios. The people living, working and learning in Medway, and our growing visitor numbers, all contribute to this evolving cultural landscape. Culture can be the societal glue that connects people and communities defining a sense of place, contributing to health and wellbeing, education and regeneration, supporting sustainable and resilient economic growth. The Rainbow Effect has allowed artists and creatives to take the lead in supporting our communities and thanking those that done so much for us over the last year.”

These commissions shine a light on Medway’s creative spirit as it prepares to bid for UK City of Culture 2025 and comes hot on the heels of the unveiling earlier this year of the area’s newly adopted cultural strategy.

Showcasing the power that culture has in everyday life

Imogen Robertson, Bid Director at Medway 2025, said: “In the year Medway submits its bid to be the UK City of Culture, The Rainbow Effect shows the power of reimagining spaces and places through creativity and the power that culture has in everyday community life. Medway’s bid is about creating opportunities and benefits to local people across the area and The Rainbow Effect makes a powerful statement about Medway’s resolve, creativity and recovery.”

Find out more about the project by following Enjoy Medway on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. If you spot the artworks tag the Enjoy Medway social media accounts and use #TheRainbowEffect and #Medway2025.

News archive