Art - Sheep
The Downhead Park name comes from a field name, Down Head Furlong. This was possibly the
inspiration for the connection with the Cotswolds where there is a place called Downhead Park.
The street names come from other places in the Cotswolds e.g. Tadmarton, Fairford Crescent
and Colesbourne Drive.
The idea for the sheep theme came from discussions with residents at the nearby sheltered
housing, what did they think of when they considered the Cotswolds – sheep were a common
The piece of artwork that was created for this area from the discussions is called “Wool Shoddy Aliens”
– in the past, approximately 15th century, many peasants were pushed off the land by the landlords –
particularly the church, in order to create huge sheep walks rather than arable crops – it was said (by
the peasants at least!) that the sheep would eat anything including livelihoods! Taking a little poetic
licence, you could also liken the urban development of Milton Keynes as further enclosure but this time
displacing the sheep – now employing mechanical ones to cut the grass!
Wool shoddy’s were areas where the sheep would be sheared, with sheep often coming long distances. Botanists many years later were confused why some areas of land would have a high diversity of plant species, including “aliens” i.e. plants that would not normally grow in the vicinity. It was when they realised the old use for these area that they understood how the sheep had carried seeds in their fleece which fell out whilst being sheared.
So the sheep are stainless steel – i.e. alien in form (both in material and the fact some are missing or inverted (these create windows on to the planting) but also a reminder of the previous presence – alien also refers to the new population of people that came together in this spot and brought their diversity to create a new community and identity in the same way the sheep inadvertently carried the plant seeds. There is a poem to go the sheep in the park which refers to the general common perceptions of sheep, the missing sheep are a reflection of poor Bo peep and a sort of game to find the missing ones, so that’s the challenge!