Northampton Racecourse's outdoor Advent calendar provides 'Covid cheer'

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image captionAlexander Small and Bill Pollard came up with the idea of a life-sized Advent calendar

A group of 20 artists have created a large-scale outdoor Advent calendar in an attempt to "cheer up a little corner" of a town park.

The calendar in Northampton's Racecourse consists of 24 boxes on poles for each day of Advent.

Artist Bill Pollard said it aimed to give people a break from the misery of the coronavirus pandemic.

He added: "It is about bringing a little bit of light into a gloomy winter."

Not all the boxes were necessarily religious - one artwork was a festive tribute to East 17's Brian Harvey, while another featured a cat next to a Christmas tree.

image captionAll of the artists involved gave their time for free and paid for the materials themselves

Mr Pollard, who erects a new box each day, said: "What they do is entirely up to the artists. There are no parameters beyond their own moral boundaries.

"It doesn't have to have anything to do with Christmas or religion. It is people doing what they can to cheer up a little corner of the park."

Mr Pollard, who lives next to the park, also used it as a canvas for his art during the first lockdown in the spring.

He put signs up with messages championing the NHS, as well as "Big Up The Binmen", "Praise the Posties" and "Keep on Trucking", while others had more overtly political connotations.

Mr Pollard said President Trump's promotion of injecting people with disinfectant to combat coronavirus inspired an artwork that contained the message: "At least our country doesn't have Trump."

"When Boris [Johnson] started saying 'Be Alert' I made a portrait of Boris with massive eyes," he added.

When those signs were taken down, Mr Pollard and fellow artist Alexander Small decided to hold the Teyn Painters art exhibition in the park in September.

Due to the pandemic, Mr Small had not been able to mount it at Northampton's The Sanctuary art gallery this year, as he had done in 2018 and 2019.

image captionBill Pollard erects a new Advent calendar box every day - each one has a gift inside, made by a Northampton artist, which the first person to open it gets to keep

When that was "really well received", thoughts turned to the Advent calendar.

"The process has brought the artists joy and what they have delivered has brought others joy," Mr Pollard said.

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