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In March 1999 the Newtown Association, in association with Cardiff Bay Arts Trust, obtained a grant of £10,000 from the Cardiff Bay Development Corporation towards the development of a memorial on a plot of land in the area formerly known as Newtown - now on the fringe of Cardiff Bay). The primary function of the memorial is to commemerate the loss of a community,to record its history and to keep its memory alive. It will provide the people of Cardiff with a source of educational archive material about the Newtown community, with a permanent memorial to the significant part which the people of the community played in the development of the city.
Under the guidance of Cardiff Bay Arts Trust a selection of artists was drawn up and from a shortlist of three, interviewed by the Association's committee, the contract for the design was awarded to local artist David Mackie.
Before taking the design to its first stage David met with many former residents at a public meeting at the end of 1999. The Committee were unanimous in their decision to approve the final design. The general feeling was the artist had managed to get right to the heart of what Newtown was, and what it meant to so many people . The garden is accessible not only to the citizens of Cardiff but also to the many visitors to the city. The intention was not that it should be exclusively a place of memorial or rest, but also a place of instruction and education.
The design is influenced by the topography of Newtown: low curved walls combined with sections of real track incorporated in the floor scape represent the railway lines that once surrounded Newtown. The walls define the garden, creating a sense of endosure, while maintaining an open aspect, and is fabricated from a variety of traditional materials including blue pennant stone, which was once abundant in the area. Bronze disks have been designed with schoolchildren from 5 Primary schools across Cardiff. The written word is a major element within the work and includes both Gaelic and Welsh texts, pointing to the integration of the original Irish community into Wales. Over 200 names spanning four generations have been inscribed in the stone paving to record Newtown family names for future generations.
The central intertwined wall refers firstly to Knotwork and suggests the physical link between Newtown and the Docks. The walls leap over each other creating a rhythm that draws the eye towards the canal. The Capping of the walls will incorporate text and relief carving. Sections of decorative paving mosaic are to be incorporated within a simplified floor treatment. Details derived from celtic art have been enlarged to form seats and are used as motifs to suggest the vibrancy of the Newtown Community. As a whole the design creates a number of different areas to sit, to remember and to meet.The entrance points are marked by unraveling spirals (mimicking the rounded corners of warehouses).
After almost 10 years of talking about it, planning, designing and fundraising for it, the building of the Newtown Memorial began early on the morning 0f 13th February 2005. At lunchtime on St Patrick's Day, just a few short weeks later, the builders -their work complete - downed tools and along with the Architect, David Mackie, CBAT, the Project Managers and the Committee of The Newtown Association, raised their glasses in a special toast to the people of Newtown.
The Newtown Memorial Garden was officially opened at 11am on 20th March 2005 by Charlotte Church, in the presence of the Rt Hon, Rhodri Morgan AM First Minister for Wales; The Consul-General of Ireland to Wales, Mr Colm McGrady and the Rt Reverend Daniel Mullins Bishop Emeritus. Approximarely 500 people, including former Newtown residents and their families and friends turned out to witness the opening of the Garden and to attend Mass, celebrated by Bishop Mullins, at the Coal Exchange in Mount Stuart Square. This was followed by a celebratory lunch and an afternoon of lively Irish entertainment.
First Minister, Rhodri Morgan AM said, "This beautiful garden is a tangible, visual reminder for everyone alive today and future generations to come, of a key part of the history of our capital city
Family names have been inscribed on the pavia. Click HERE to see the list of names. (It is in spreadsheet form (.xls) so you will need something like Excel or similar).