Little Acorns

- Little Acorns Sculpture ~ Alan Cargo -

– Little Acorns Sculpture ~ Alan Cargo –

Little Acorns ~ Powder Coated Steel and Stainless Steel
Sculptor ~ Alan Cargo

Back in 2011, Antrim Borough Council encouraged local residents to take part in an exciting, new project: A sculpture representing a mighty oak tree, to be erected at the roundabout at Greystone Road, Antrim. I found it during construction, but was unable to discover the back story until now.

Little Acorns ,showing the sections

Little Acorns ,showing the sections

It involved working with artist, Alan Cargo, to create a large metal tree complete with engraved metal leaves. Each leaf was created by an individual member of the community with a design of their choice along the themes of Round Tower, growth, strength, and connections.

Little Acorns, branches and leaves

Little Acorns, branches and leaves

Unfortunately, because of the 7.5m height, and positioning of the completed sculpture on the roundabout, it was not possible to get up close to see the words and imagery on to the 320 stainless steel leaves and acorns.

The project is part of the Positive Spaces programme, helping communities enhance their neighbourhoods with positive and cross-community public art.

Almost a silhouette, to give an idea of the shape.

Almost a silhouette, to give an idea of the shape.

Alan Cargo has for more than a decade successfully completed 25 large scale public art sculptural projects, and taken part in exhibitions both internationally and locally.

He has lived and worked in England, Ireland and Africa both as a teacher and designer / maker of sculpture, and has traveled extensively in Africa, Asia and Latin America. He is currently a lecturer of 3D Design (Sculpture) in Belfast Metropolitan College.

A wide range of materials and engineering techniques are used to realise his work, and he likes to have a hands-on approach to all the manufacturing stages involved in making the work a process. He has this to say about ‘Little Acorns’:

Commissioner, Antrim Borough Council / European Development Fund.
The four parts of this sculpture line up to make a ‘great oak’ tree at one point of the viewers journey round the roundabout creating a sense of visual anticipation, and reflecting the somewhat fractured nature of the surrounding communities. Direct inclusion of peoples words and imagery sand blasted on to the 320 stainless steel leaves and acorns advances the idea that community is strengthened when everyone can speak, words and imagery from workshops with 5 primary schools and 4 community groups are included.

About four years ago, I wrote about a very different tree not far from this one. It was Brian Connolly’s The Healing Tree.

When I discover how to pull over the approx 2,300 posts from my old blog, you will be able to dander through my sculpture series that began with the story of Dickie, Sam & Billy. If you scroll down the comments, you will find a comment from Brian Alabaster, the sculptor of the piece. I have to confess it is still my favourite.


Sweet Water Arch

Sweet Water Arch ~ stainless steel
Artists: Denis O’Connor & Bernie Rutter

Sweet Water Arch stands four metres high in the car park adjacent to the Lyric Theatre, opposite the Governor’s Bridge and across the road from Stranmillis College. It links the communities on both sides of the river, symbolises the theatrical connection with the Lyric and the flow of the river. It also features details from the impressive frontage of Stranmillis College, designed by Charles Lanyon, and oars.

You can see the oars, perhaps the chair is a symbol of the seat of learning at the college.

Children from three local schools worked with artists and lecturers to help design the  piece. along with input from art and design students from Stranmillis College, local historians and residents groups all helped contribute to the content of the sculpture.
The name, Sweet Water Arch, derives from the Irish for the area ‘An Srúthan Milís’ or ‘sweet stream’.

View from the other side.

Denis O’Connor hails from Cork and with his partner Bernie Rutter they together form Sculpture Works based in Wirksworth, Derbyshire, where they create work for national and international commissions, residencies and exhibitions.

When My Time Comes

“May I go outside for a smoke?” asked the young lady politely. She sounded so gentle that I hardly recognised her! Elly was on best behaviour. We felt very special as we were honoured guests at the home of the Bride-to-be, just two evenings before her wedding.

On our journey along the road in West Barnstable on the Cape the houses were brightly lit and decorated for the forthcoming Thanksgiving Holiday. On arrival at our destination the Bride’s brother was there to guide us to our parking space. The pathway to the door was lit by candlelight. It all looked very romantic. The greeting was heartfelt warm and welcoming, but to the disgust of our hosts we were arriving during a power outage. So life on the other side of the pond was not very different to that back in Ireland. We were quite used to power cuts back at home, sometimes they were scheduled but alas on other occasions, due to vandalism.

Introductions were made and we immediately felt at home and the chat flowed freely, the drink glowed in the candle light and we drank a toast to the young couple and to their families. After an hour the lights came on and our surroundings were revealed to us, a very comfortable home with some beautiful items of furniture.

Being a mid November evening and rather cold outside Elly was taken to the ‘Studio’ for her smoke. “Mum you should see the Studio!” Elly said to me on her return some time later. “Ask Stephen, I am sure he would love to show it to you!” I didn’t need to ask; Stephen had heard and immediately invited me to the tour. There I was in a foreign country, with a strange man, on my way to see his etchings wonderful works of art.

I already mentioned the table where I had my breakfast in a previous post. On this occasion I was enjoying work on a totally different plane, it showed the amazing talent and wonderful sense of humour of my host! Stephen only uses recycled items, timbers discarded and considered well past being useful. With careful thought, time, care and love he breathes new life into his amazing creations.

I actually sat in here.

Stephen calls it an ‘In-House’, it is actually a little office with desk and bench seat. The seat is lifted in the photo above! 😆

And for something totally different:

Or for when my time comes

To save space you can put me on end

I originally set out to write about cooking implements but the final item totally blew my mind and took me off on a tangent. I hope you enjoyed my travels!

An Answer!

Ian asked me a question on 30th March this year. He would be the first to tell us that some answers take time. This one did, but I at last have the answer.

Back then I wrote about this wonderful sculpture

At the time the only information I had was:

Brian Alabaster of Suffolk made this sculpture in 2003. His son Sam, a 15 year old boy with Downs Syndrome sits reading with his Grandpa, Dickie, who is 82, Sam’s dog Billy, age 10, is at his feet.

I received a comment to that post at the weekend. It was from Brian Alabaster, sculptor. ARBS. Sadly, he tells me that Grandpa Dickie has since died. The close bond between man and boy is so obvious in the work and I am sure Dickis is greatly missed by all his loved ones.

So to answer Ian’s question, asking if the piece was commissioned by the local council, I can now tell you it was purchased by the owners of Junction One Shopping Outlet after they saw it in Brian’s studio.

It was with great interest and curiosity that I visited Brian’s website and was fascinated at his back story. I immediately lost my heart to this piece;

If only I had a garden suitable for Lilly Luke and Rose to sport and play.

Now if you pause for a moment you can almost hear their chatter.


Ladies of the Town

I was missing for a few hours earlier in the week. I went to town.

On my travels I paid a visit to a couple of ladies well known in the area outside the Europa Bus centre. The wind in this part of Belfast has a habit of whipping around corners, yet these ladies had not a coat between them.


The Monument to the Unknown Woman Worker 1992 by Louise Walsh is a testament to all women workers both paid and unpaid. Various utensils attached to the two women represent their activities and include the shopping basket and the cash register. It is apt that the women appear strong and unshakable, battling on against low wages or no wages at all. Belfast owes its growth to the masses of female workers who built the largest and most famous linen industry in the world. Not to forget other women in factories, shops, and offices who struggled to support their families during the high unemployment caused by the “troubles”. Pause for a moment to admire the heroism of these two women, and who they represent.


This lady has a work worn face, a child’s soother for an earring and cable knitting for hair with a ball of wool for the bun at the nape of her neck.


A water tap is embedded in the shoulder, a cheese grater in the upper arm and the following message:

All women working in the home receive no direct wage.


The fingers on the right hand are clothes pegs and the basket represented the time when women went from shop to shop for food before the days of Supermarkets and on-line shopping.


Women do two-thirds of the world’s work, receive only two per cent of the world’s income and own less than one percent of the world’s assrts.



Across the back of the second lady is a hairdryer and the hair is like hairbrushes they come with the message:

Almost 40% of women working for income in Northern Ireland are part-time workers. These women are almost always badly paid. They work without having benefits, holiday entitlements or pension schemes. Part-time workers are also not represented by trade unions.

It finally happened

I should have known.

It was becoming an obsession…..

all this reading of blogs and surfing the net…

I opened yet another email and look what I found…


Whoever produced this document was very clever, so I took the advice and went in search of Toyboys

I found Two

A man, a boy, a dog and an open book on the ground. The sculpture has a central place at Junction One Outlet shopping Centre, between Antrim and Ballymena, Co Antrim. At first glance it seems very ordinary. To appreciate it fully you need to read the message in the open book on the ground.

The message in the book is as follows:

Brian Alabaster of Suffolk made this

sculpture in 2003. His son Sam, a 15 year old boy with Downs Syndrome sits reading with his Grandpa, Dickie, who is 82, Sam’s dog Billy, age 10, is at his feet.