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Foundation diploma in art and design students at New College Stamford delve into the Mercury Archive for inspiration for their exhibition at Stamford Arts Centre

College art students have delved into the Stamford Mercury Archive for inspiration for their latest exhibition.

Stories featuring etchings about swans, Dick Turpin, a horn-shaped tumour and fears about witchcraft which featured in the Stamford Mercury from yesteryear, all inspired students studying for the foundation diploma in art and design at New College Stamford.

And now their work appears in a new exhibition in the gallery at Stamford Arts Centre, which opened on Thursday (January 9) and runs until Monday, January 20.

The archive of the Mercury is looked after by the Stamford Mercury Archive Trust and secretary of the trust Sarah Critchard was only too happy to help when course coordinator Susan Martin approached her for help.

She directed here to the ‘Mercuriosities’ section of the Stamford Mercury Archive Trust’s website and the students used these pieces to recreate their own work.

A report from the Mercury that appeared on January 24, 1823, about a woman and her three daughters from Somerset who received a prison for cutting and and maiming an old woman suspected to be a witch, inspired Lucy Johnson, 18, from Market Deeping, to produce artwork based around the concept of fear.

One of the daughters suffered from a violent attack of fits and put it down to the work of witchcraft and the only way they believed they could cure this illness was to draw blood from the witch and did this by attacking her.

She said: “I chose superstition because it links in with my project about fear.

“I thought it would be really good for research and my portfolio and it was really interesting delving back into the archive.”

Liv Hope, 23, from Deeping St James, had chosen a copy of a letter that appeared in the Mercury on November 24, 1826, about an American woman from Pennsylvania who had a horn-shaped tumour growing out of the side of her head.

The woman refused to have it removed as she believed it was punishment for her sins.

Liv said she chose the story for her artwork as she thought it was ‘quite interesting how we perceive anything that’s not normal’.

“It was really fun looking through the archive at all the interesting stories from many years ago,” she added.

Billie Sutherland, 17, from Kettering had chosen a story from November 11 1803 about swans keeping pieces of water in the Burghley Estate free from weeds for inspiration for her piece of art.

“I like nature and the environment and I thought the swans would work really well for etching with because of their features and form,” she said.

“Swans are also animals that are associated with Stamford, especially because of The Meadows and Burghley House.”

Tom Starkey, 19, from Alconbury Weston, based his artwork on a story from May 12 1737 about Dick Turpin being caught by a servant while stealing a horse from a house in Essex.

Eva Leeds, 19, from Corby, based her artwork on a poem called Primitive Simplicity which appeared in the Mercury in August 1816.

The poem is about simplicity which the writer believed was ‘not inapplicable to the times’ and the artwork was also inspired by nomophobia, which is the fear of being unable to access your mobile phone.

Sarah, from the archive, said the artwork produced as a result was “lovely”, adding: “It’s nice to see a modern slant on these ancient etchings from the Mercury’s archive.”

For more details about the archive and to view the Mercuriosities, visit www.smarchive.org.uk

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