A Place For Words: The Spennymoor Letters

What happened?

The Spennymoor Letters was a project commissioned by Sedgefield Borough Council in 2005. The council asked a short-list of artists prepared with the help of Commissions North, to propose ideas for 10-12 gable-ends around Spennymoor in County Durham. Ira Lightman ran workshops and invited local people to fill in crossword-like postcards in the shape of the ten letters of the town name, an S, a P, an E, an N etc. He then selected and edited ten poems as 2m high wall sculptures, running a trail through the town centre. He also produced a DVD including a documentary and everybody's contributions to the project, plus a PC game with a photo-real Spennymoor in which users can collect postcards and install the sculptures. Finally, as the “cover to the book, with everyone's name on it,” he and fellow artist Dan Civico co-created 3 town signs, laser-cut metal light boxes, cut with the 2000 different surnames of the electoral roll. At night the word SPENNYMOOR shines through the laser-cut names in red.

Project Gallery

Spennymoor 1

One of the Spennymoor letters. Photo: Tony Griffiths

Spennymoor 2

Postcards used to collect poems. Design: SUMO and Ira Lightman

Spennymoor 3

One of the three surname signs. Photo: Tony Griffiths

What made it work?

  • Pre-existing good relationships between Sedgefield Borough Council and local shops meant nearly all the buildings readily agreed to host a Letter
  • A fantastic local newspaper, The Spennynews, got behind the project and ran a series of stories
  • Local people and especially schools got right behind the idea, almost immediately

Further information and links:

« Back to Case Studies, Literature and Public Art (permanent outcomes)