Recently arrived in Tanner Street Park, next to Bermondsey Street, is Cornerstone, a community sculpture. It is assembled from over 100 stone carvings created by public participants at free and open sculpture workshops held within nearby Whites Grounds Estate.

The community sculpture project was conceived by local artist and stonemason Austin Emery in answer to the need for more resident-led engagement initiatives. He used the immersive enjoyable process of stone carving to bring people from all walks of life together to create something long-lasting for the neighbourhood, while enhancing social cohesion within the ever-changing community of Bermondsey Street.

Cornerstone’s older sister, The Shared, stands in Tyers Estate, a little further north, and accessed through an archway off Bermondsey Street. Over 100 residents and other community members carved the pieces assembled into The Shared at workshops held over four weekends on the estate. It was unveiled in 2014 as part of the Bermondsey Street Festival.

For each of these sculptures,  more than 100 public participants put on safety goggles, picked up a chisel and a mallet and started carving a piece of stone. They worked over four weekends, on temporary tables and under tarpaulin raincovers.

Emery says:
“The idea was to invite everyone to come out onto the estate to carve stone together, get to know the neighbours and create something permanent for our own public space within our neighbourhood.

Having shown the participants a few important basic stone-carving tool skills, I encouraged them to enjoy the process of uncovering whatever they would find inside the stone as they chopped and cut it using a chisel and mallet. Carving stone absolutely absorbs people… they get lost in the time and labour of this fascinating primeval process of uncovering what already exists within the stone”.

Workshop participant Ike K commented:
“Taking part in the community sculpture project was a fantastic experience – it was a great opportunity to try something I’ve never done before. It was amazing to take a hammer to a block of rock and just let myself go… The feeling of accomplishment was immense – I had transformed a block of stone into a (rudimentary) sculpture! Something I’ll always remember”.

Emery executed the assembling of The Shared sculpture and, more recently, Cornerstone. He combined the individual stones carved by the workshop participants with other mementos of historic buildings into the sculpture.

The construction and installation were supported by a #CrowdfundLDN campaign which saw 205 individuals and organizations respond to the generous support offered by the Mayor of London. Many thanks also to different departments at Southwark Council, including Parks, Regeneration, Highways, Culture and Planning for support and providing a beautiful location for the sculpture.

Thank-you also for expert in-kind contributions by

Click here for full list of Sponsors and Supporters.

The Shared and Cornerstone bring people together through public artistic engagement, providing a sense of belonging and ownership while embodying the expression of the community, carved in stone.

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