RISE, the voice for South West social enterprise article April 2009
Cornish Sculptor invests in London with
Cornwall's own Chelsea Pensioner!

Based in Wadebridge, Community Interest Company 'Sculpture Workshop' has been honoured by being offered a prestigious place at The Royal Chelsea Hospital in London , proving that social enterprises are continuing to be successful in these difficult economic times. The dignity and wisdom of the Chelsea pensioners inspired sculptor Richard Austin to create and donate the sculpture to the Hospital.

Richard explains:
"I watched a TV programme that illustrated how inspirational and special the pensioners are, and it brought home to me that we are actually losing this generation - so I set out to capture the essence of the Chelsea Pensioner, as an artistic record for future generations. It is a timeless piece which will remain in place at The Royal Hospital Chelsea for many years.


Chelsea Pensioner by sculptor Richard Austin

The Royal Hospital Chelsea have been extremely supportive and helpful since the project was brought to David Hellends, the Director of Development by Betty Hale - who is a tremendous admirer of Richard's sculptures which always capture the very essence of the people depicted. In the pursuits of making sure the uniform details were correct, another senior staff member at the Hospital, Colonel Nigel Gilbert, was asked for the loan of a uniform button for Richard to copy - but instead - he sent a complete set of buttons - which added just the right finishing touch to the splendid red tunic.

Next came the need to depict medals, always displayed on the Pensioners' tunics and Jim Hale approached a St Merryn British Legion member - a Veteran of the Second World War - Mike Higman, as well as Major Richard Harris and Richard Knight of Wadebridge British Legion who so very generously lent medals. These precious items were entrusted to Richard while he made detailed replicas of them to ensure all details for the Pensioner were accurate.

The whole Management Team at the Hospital reviewed photographs of the sculpture and loved it. They made the unanimous decision that the sculpture should be on permanent display in the grounds of the Chelsea Hospital at one of the main gates. The sculpture will be in place before the opening of this year's Chelsea Flower Show offering great exposure. Over 300,000 visitors a year visit the Hospital who would be able to sit on his bench and have their photos taken alongside him - Richard hopes that this will bring new business interest too from people seeing the sculpture and wanting to commission their own sculpture from this Cornish CIC - although not of a Chelsea Pensioner of course!"

Richard Austin has been teaching sculpting in the community since 1992. He has recently been so successful with his teaching that he now teaches far more than he sculpts.

Richard states:

"People don't often realise that anyone can be creative and it has tremendous benefits. As a social enterprise trading for the benefit of the community, we've seen the tremendous and positive effects upon those lacking confidence; it really can turn their lives around when they realise that they are good at something creative. We've encountered people on a downward spiral, but by helping them find their creative outlet they become so much happier and some even start up their own creative enterprises."

Chelsea Pensioner by sculptor Richard Austin
For more information, please contact Richard Austin on 01208 - 816370 or richard@sculptureworkshop.co.uk
Betty Hale Consultancy