‘Tonbridge Tree’ takes root in the town to spread positive feelings
by Andy Tong | 8th August 2019
TEENAGERS from the National Citizen Service [NCS] are spreading their messages of hope across Tonbridge – and their latest is here to stay.
The government project offers young people a four-week programme of activities designed to encourage social cohesion, social engagement and social mobility.
One team of youths has posted signs on bridges encouraging people who are feeling depressed to be optimistic or seek help.
Another group have been decorating pebbles with positive messages and images and leaving them around the town.
These are part of an awareness and fundraising campaign for the mental health charity Mind UK.
Now they have painted a striking, colourful mural in Priory Road near the railway station with a similar message of hope.
'We had a whole range of business people, children and elderly residents participate. One local even aided us in painting'
It includes a tree laden with hand prints – known as the Tonbridge Tree – with many bystanders adding their own imprints.
It is intended to highlight ‘the importance of oneself’, and includes contact numbers for charities who help those with mental health issues.
NCS team member James Lipington told the Times they chose the name because ‘it’s fitting for how the whole community got involved in the project.
“Paint companies, charities and local people have all contributed to the painting of the wall.”
They picked the motif of the tree ‘to represent the idea that when we come together, we grow.
“The design team got together and we thought it best to incorporate nature symbolism in the piece,” he said.
“Practically every passer-by was either interested or put their hand on the wall.
'To many this would be the first impression of the town, and a lot of locals see this wall as they walk to the High Street or drive past'
“We had a whole range of business people, children and elderly residents participate. One local even aided us in painting.
“They all seemed to appreciate the artwork and the message of mental health alongside.”
They deliberately chose the site next to the transport hub and obtained relevant permissions from Southeastern and Tonbridge & Malling Borough Council.
“The rejuvenation of this wall was particularly important to us due to its location to the station.
“To many this would be the first impression of the town, and a lot of locals see this wall as they walk to the High Street or drive past.”
The mural was different from their previous ideas because it would be a permanent reminder of their social action project about mental health.
“As we painted it, we hoped this would achieve a more long-term impact upon the town of Tonbridge.”