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Sheffield and a Lavender Haze

Sheffield is a name perhaps most closely associated with a fine cutting edge of special steel rather than a gentle agricultural area growing a wealth of vegetables. But the latter is the reality of Sheffield, Mural Capital of Tasmania. It saw spectacular action in the 1960s when thousands moved into the area for the Mersey Forth Hydro Development scheme when Lake Barrington was formed but when the migrant workforce left the main legacy was a fine network of roads giving greater access to the grandeur of the countryside. It saw short lived spectacular tourism in 1990 when the World Rowing Championships were held on that lake. The town of Sheffield lies in the Kentish Municipality, named after Surveyor Nathanial Lipscombe Kentish and 20 assisting convicts who were seeking to create a road north west from Deloraine... and one probationer, Old Bill, came across the fertile plains on August 1st 1842. Gold and silver lead have also been found over the past century but are no longer worked.

Back in 1985 several leading townsfolk met to see what could be done to arrest its gradual economic decline and they formed the Kentish Association of Tourism (KAT). Each member of the founding team was mandated to bring along their own big idea. One suggested a Giant Potato to remind one and all of the area's agricultural prowess; another saw a tv documentary on Chemainus and suggested the town think Murals; and a third had the chance during an already planned Canadian conference trip to visit Chemainus and meet Karl Schutz. And so it began... and today there are some 45 murals in the town and its immediately surrounding area and the fifth edition of Tasmania's Outdoor Art Gallery is due out in January 2003.

KAT took an unusual early decision to employ a single artist, John Lendis, for many of the early murals which had the great benefit of getting a common interpretation although (now resolved) copyright issues became a tad confused. Since then 10 artists altogether have brought the total above 40. One central store owner, Alan, father of today's KAT President John Dyer, even jumped the gun with his own sepia coloured pioneering mural by Digger Steers illustrated here but no longer to be seen! Instead Slaters Country Store since 1899 has Frank's Wireless Studio by John Lendis and the Missed Opportunity by Cheyne Purdue. Talking of Slaters, under John's leadership it is increasingly turning back to look as it was 100 years ago on the interior as well as the exterior de-modernisation completed by his father Alan. But make no mistake, the product range is contemporary as are the security cameras.

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Some of the other Sheffield Murals are captured here by the amateur showing their context, indeed The Hardest Years by Paul Woods and Mary Clancy has standing before it both John Dyer and 'The Brian, Laird of Cackpot' alias Brian Inder, a founder KAT member who made the original trip to Chemainus. The second camera shot shows Beth Pagel owner of The Kentish Chronicle, the founder KAT member credited with first floating the murals vision after seeing that tv documentary. She is standing outside her own business premises in front of David Hopkins's mural of the Beulah Printery in 1880.

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The murals include the geographical splendour of the area and its explorers as well as the specifics of Sheffield's historical base, and murals are also found the in the surrounding towns as they are for Bowen.

Round 2

A new KAT team has lately been formed by John Dyer, the President. It includes the Laird of Crackpot who is, unsurprisingly, no crackpot at all. He owns and manages with his wife Laura a major tourism attraction close by - Tasmazia

Tasmazia is both home to lavender farming in a major way and to the world's greatest complex of mazes. So any wanting to be a-mazed simply have to make that journey.

KAT has also now won local Council support and $A 40 000 funding for an Exhibition Hall of Fame each year at the time of the Tasmania-wide Ten Days on the Island a ten artist murals contest is being run, with the winner taking up space for ever in The Hall of Fame. The dates for 2003 are already known as March 28th/April 6th. In recent years as well as painting new murals, KAT in Sheffield also predated Ely's use of the Living Mural concept in partnership with the Mount Roland Folk Festival. Mount Roland as can be seen below dominates the Kentish plains.

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What A Welcome Too

Any and all visitors will find they are one of some 150 000 each year that pause on Main Street, making use of a great Tourism Information Centre and Parking facilities. In my case I popped into the first shop that carried muralphanalia and it happened to be Beth Pagel Printing and Laundrette service. She pointed me up street to the Tourism Office and they to John Dyer's Slaters store. Within an hour John, The Brian, Lady Avril and I were all eating at Rossini's lately a bank still with its Chubb safe, but now the town's major bakery and eaterie for the passer through. Talk was of great pleasure to see an immediate post-Moose Jaw Conference visitor and how could Sheffield get more deeply involved with the Global Association, and make a tender to host the Global Conference in 2008. And let us all hope that comes true.

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Click here to view the comprehensive Sheffield Gallery of Murals

Published Date: December 6th 2002

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