The Big Bonkers Mobile Musical Carnival Contraption project creates a travelling, engineered, mechanical, musical artwork that takes part in street processions and highlights better care for our environment, particularly the River Wye. The contraption, funded by The Arts Council and others, ‘débuted’ this Wednesday as a work-in-progress at The Courtyard’s Family Festival, where artists and members of the project team were on hand to show the crowds how this mechanical, musical artwork works.

Following its appearance at the Courtyard, the team head off to work with young people in three local secondary schools and Citizen Young People (formerly SHYPP: Sheltered Housing for Young People Project), partnering them with local engineering companies to create their own artworks to the same brief. These will be exhibited together at next year’s Hereford River Carnival on Saturday 9 May 2020. The artist-created artwork also appears at two further summer festivals.

Commenting on the project’s roots, originator Jo Henshaw said:

“A few years ago, I watched Hereford Sub Aqua Club help Hereford in Bloom clean up the city before the arrival of the judges, by pulling rubbish out of the Wye. I looked at the pile and thought ‘That rubbish is awful, but something positive could come out of this.’ “

As well as highlighting better care for our environment, the project aims to boost work skills, aspirations and life skills for young people from diverse backgrounds and circumstances, to open up opportunities for local apprenticeships and employment in engineering and in the creative industries, and to enhance the profile of the role of arts at local community events.

Alongside Aylestone, Barrs Court and Fairfield Schools, and Citizen Young People, local environmental organisations Herefordshire New Leaf and the Wye Valley Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty are taking part, and engineering companies Balfour Beatty Living Places, Barrs Court Engineering, HMS Engineering, and Oakwrights.

“I am drawn to collaborative projects that bring together unexpected combinations of skills – like marrying traditional artistic practice with engineering principles,“ said Jo.

Jo and the project team are very grateful to the Arts Council, local funders and in-kind contributors who have provided the support to make this project happen.

Head to our Facebook page to see the Contraption in action!