Artist Sophie Mahon was born in Partington, Greater Manchester and spent her formative years there. After studying at Nottingham Trent University, she has returned to make a permanent mark on her home town.
Since graduating, Sophie has carved her niche in community arts projects. She took on her most ambitious project to date when Peel commissioned her to create a 40ft bronze sculpture to adorn Partington’s new shopping centre, as part of its regeneration commitment to the area.
“Growing up in Partington, the town centre went from a thriving, independent market place to boarded-up shops with just a single cash machine, which would regularly break. For a town of over 8,000 people it was pretty shocking. There was very little provision for the community and it had a huge impact on the area.
“The recent regeneration has significantly improved the area and restored some pride back into the town. Though Partington still gets a lot of flack, which I find unfair. The area has its problems, like many others, but the strength and closeness of the community really is something special. I think the investment that has been put into the town has made a massive difference to how people view the area and I look forward to seeing this develop.
“It’s been incredibly exciting for me to create such a landmark piece of art in my home town. Since the sense of community is so strong here, it was important to get as many locals as possible involved in the project. I’ve taken casts of over 600 hands – from a nine-month-old baby, to Dolly, who at 101 is the oldest person in the town. I’ve visited support groups, nurseries, toddler groups, schools and care homes to engage the community and have particularly enjoyed working with people who might not normally get involved with projects like this.
“For me, the project has gone above and beyond creating a piece of art. It solidifies a moment in time, allowing the people of this town to quite literally make their mark. It’s great that Peel has supported the arts in this way and it has inspired me to run more projects like this in the town where young and old can create and engage in art. The Arts Council has recognised Partington as a ‘cold spot’ for the arts and I plan to help change that.”
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