Ringing the changes for 'The Box' once more in Skegness' German twin town

A telephone box is keeping the communications open between Skegness and its twin town in Germany is ready to make a call again for a major horticultural show next year.

The Box is green and pink ahead of the Landes­garten­schau Flower Show.

Local artist John Byford has recently been back to Bad Gandersheim overseeing its latest colour change - green and pink ahead of the Landes­garten­schau Flower Show - an event the equivalent of Chelsea Flower Show in which the town has been invited to exhibit a Skegness garden.

This is the penultimate art project for John in Bad Gandersheim - and he says it is most likely the biggest opportunity yet to spread the word to Europe about what Skegness has to offer.

Deputy Mayor of Bad Gandersheim Ingrid Lohmann recently wrote about the new project in her local newspaper.

A bench which came from Skegness Pier is being renovated to be part of the Skegness garden in an horticultural show in the twin town of Bad Gandersheim.

She said: "The new coat of paint, a lush green with a pink window frame, is intended to convey a message that the artist considers to be particularly important in the current situation - 'Hope!'

"With all the terrible things that are currently happening in the world, from the unrest in Afghanistan to environmental disasters such as the flood in the west, hope is the engine to be able to defend itself against these circumstances.

"The proportion of pink adds a delicate femininity to the overall picture, which for him means 'fresh ideas'.

"He sees his vision realized within the state horticultural show, which will also bring a lot of these fresh ideas and also many visitors to the city estimated to be in the region of one million."

John Byford with Ingrid Lohmann at the Yellowbelly Box.

John first took The Box to Bad Gandersheim in 2014 when it was yellow to celebrate Lincolnshire Yellowbellies, and since then it has been redesigned several times.

In 2018, he designed The Box in white to commemorate those who died in the First World War and a civic ceremony took place in Bad Gandersheim, where John and the then Mayor of Skegness Coun Sid Dennis were special guests. All the names of the young men who gave their lives in both towns were read out.

The following year, 2019, the The Box received the artist's next coat of paint - blue to focus on the approaching Brexit.

The basic idea behind the respective redesigns is linked by an element that works on several levels and encourages understanding: 'The message of continued peace and friendship'.

The 'Catch a Falling Star' Box reminding us that our friendship will continue beyond Brexit created a huge media interest.

The Box is a symbol of communication and this is necessary to maintain and strengthen this fragile peace. “We need to talk to each other,” continued John.

Preparations are currently being made for the horticultural show's English week next August, in which a renovated bench from the town's Pier will be included in the Skegness garden. Skegness Silver Band will also perform during the English week.

Regarding his latest project, John said: "The collaboration that brings together Skegness with our twin town of Bad Gandersheim, Germany for the Landesgartenschau is a wonderful opportunity to showcase just what delights we have to offer here on the Lincolnshire’s culture coast.

"Next year's exciting commission to construct a ‘coastal garden’ will be my biggest installation to date, not only strengthening our friendship in a post Brexit world, but placing Skegness firmly on an international platform. 2022 will be a great year for the arts!"

Former Mayor of Skegness Coun Sid Dennis, who read out names of the fallen from WW1 at the 2017 box illustrating peace, pictured alongside Mayor of Bad Gandersheim Franziska Schwarz.

John was recently awarded honoured citizenship of Skegness for his commitment to promoting the town through arts and culture.

His ‘Peep Box’ travelled to Sweden and Denmark, with his ‘Made in England’ project visited Germany, Hungary and Italy.

John has also been a regular contributor to the SO with projects such as ‘Hide & Seek’ at Gibraltar Point Nature Reserve, and ‘Day Tripper’ in Hull, York and Nottingham. His ‘Patience’ exhibition at the Embassy Theatre was featured on BBC arts

The importance of the continued relationship with the German twin town was emphasised in a message from the Mayor of Bad Gandersheim Franziska Schwarz after John was made an honoured citizen.

She said: "I fully support the choice made by Skegness council. It recognises his engagement in Bad Gandersheim in combining his work as an artist as well as supporting the friendship of our towns.

"As long as I am part of the council and throughout my time as mayor, I remember art projects he created for us. First there were exhibitions in cooperation with our arts circle. John initiated an exchange of works from artists of Skegness to present their work in Brunshausen (the city gallery) and organised an exhibition of regional artists from here in Skegness.

Mayor of Bad Gandersheim Franziska Schwartz with a copy of the Skegness Standard celebrating the 100th anniversary of the end of WW1 and the names of the brave featured on The Box of 2017. A copy is now part of an exhibition in the Bad Gandersheim museum.

"Those were fantastic opportunities for all of them to receive public attention. The most lasting and prominent project though is The Box in the centre of our town.

"With much effort and many trips from England to Germany, John gave an object to our town, that to this day is an eye-catcher that we would not want to miss. With never ending enthusiasm he gave The Box changing meanings over the years, always discussing themes of communication and bonds between our people.

"We are now looking forward to a contribution to our upcoming garden show next year. We have always understood that all the effort John has made in the arts was motivated by his wish to promote the friendship between our towns and countries.

"Whenever John Byford appears in Bad Gandersheim, people recognise him and receive him as a friend. We all look forward to his next visit and will hopefully be able to celebrate this new honour together."

* For all past and future projects see his website: www.Byford.co.uk Anyone interested in visiting Bad Gandersheim, or would like to know more about Skegness Twinning Association, should call Brian Chapman 01754 761617.