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John Lester reveals plans for white horse, war plane and steam locomotive sculptures at McArthurGlen Designer Outlet and other Ashford locations

As Ashford is “swamped by new developments” one artist is hoping to keep the town’s heritage alive through a series of colourful sculptures.

John Lester has grand plans for a white horse outside the Designer Outlet, warplanes in Elwick Road and a steam locomotive near the old Klondyke Railway Works site.

Mr Lester tried in 2010 to convince Ashford Council and Kent County Council to help him place a white horse sculpture in Elwick Square and Olympic imagery on the bridge over Romney Marsh Road but neither idea came to fruition.

One of John Lester's designs

Now the former head of art at King’s School in Canterbury has started approaching private companies as well, including Outlet owners McArthurGlen, and hopes they can help make his designs a reality.

Mr Lester said: “With concerns that Ashford’s heritage is being swamped by new developments and that, in my opinion, a number of pieces of public artwork in Ashford appear to have little relevance to the town itself, I have been keen to make efforts to produce my own public artworks to celebrate Ashford.

John Lester with models of his designs

“Also, as I have now lived in the town for several years, my affection for the place has grown and I am keen to do my bit to make Ashford a better place.

“My sculptures have, I feel, a sense of movement and are uplifting for the viewer.

“Most of the sculptures can be seen through, to give an impression that they are emerging from the past and colour adds another dimension to some – they could also be lit up at night.

A steam locomotive sculpture would commemorate the old railway works

“I believe the sculptures have a function and combine traditional representation and contemporary design, and as such would fit in well with both old and new developments of the town.”

The four-metre high white horse sculpture, Mr Lester explained, is a reference to Ashford as a market town, as livestock was once sold there, as well as resembling the symbol of Kent.

The locomotive installation would commemorate the old railway works and he has requested the support of the Ashford International Model Railway Excellence Centre (AIMREC), a planned model railway museum that has backing from The Who frontman Roger Daltrey and other celebrities.

Red, white and blue Spitfires overlooking Ashford's former airfields

Finally, Mr Lester has designed a piece of art featuring red, white and blue Spitfires, representing the colours of the flags of Great Britain, USA and Canada, whose pilots all used Ashford’s airfields.

The sculpture would be 10 to 12 metres tall, so it could overlook former Second World War airfields at Kingsnorth and Great Chart, and contain a memorial plaque to Ashford’s war casualties.

How the white horse sculptures might look near Ashford Designer Outlet

Mr Lester intends to make the pieces from welded steel, possibly reclaimed railway tracks, and would like Ashford businesses to be involved in the construction.

He has written poems to accompany the horse and railway designs, which could be incorporated into the pieces.

He has had artwork, featuring images of trains, Paris and cricket, displayed at Ashford International Station and he created two pieces earlier this year to mark the centenary of the start of the First World War.

Anyone who can help can email john@johnlesterart.com

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