A sculpture inspired by Jack Merritt, who was killed in the Fishmongers’ Hall terror attack, has been created by prisoners at HMP Warren Hill and will be revealed on Monday 28 June as part of the world-class Cows about Cambridge art trail.
Jack’s desire to pursue fairness for those on the edges of society, and his commitment to rehabilitation rather than revenge, led him to become the course coordinator for the Butler Law Course at HMP Warren Hill in Suffolk. While there, he met prison art teacher Tom Cringle.
“Jack and I approached the Cows about Cambridge team together, to see if we could be part of the art trail, but unfortunately Jack died before the sculpture could be realised,” explained Tom. “We decided to follow the project through, but felt it would be respectful to alter our original design by incorporating thoughtful phases and testimonials about Jack and his work here at Warren Hill.”
Called Entwining of Two Worlds, the lifesize fibreglass Cow sculpture has been hand-painted by seven prisoners under Tom’s expert guidance. Two trees in blossom form the basis of the design, illustrating how inmates at HMP Warren Hill and students studying at the University of Cambridge work collaboratively on the Butler Law Course, where they explore legal issues and ideas together while learning and benefitting from each other’s experience. One of the trees is depicted on the sculpture as twisted and restrained, the other free-flowing and lush. At the point where the branches of the two trees entwine and grow together, they sprout fresh leaves, blossom and flowers.
Although the sculpture pays homage to Jack, it’s the principle behind the project that best represents his legacy.
“Real-world projects like this one demonstrate the value of education in the prison system,” explained Tom. “The artists who worked on this sculpture did so with skill, respect, dignity and pride. Education doesn’t just pass the time, it’s a vital part of rehabilitation. It’s the platform for learning new skills, and links to future employment. It creates hope and increases the chance of a positive outcome after release. Jack knew this. He believed in second chances and consistently looked for the best in people.”
Jack’s parents, Dave and Anne Merritt, said: “Jack reconnected with his artistic side through working with students on the Learning Together course at Warren Hill, and other prisons he worked in. Jack appreciated the therapeutic and personal growth aspects of art, and he definitely regarded it as pleasure, not work. We encouraged Jack to appreciate all forms of art from a young age, and he particularly enjoyed conceptual and political artists such as Ai Wei Wei and Marina Abramovich.”
“Jack would be honoured and amused in equal measure to have a cow dedicated in his name in the Cows about Cambridge project. We hope it makes people think about the power of art to help prisoners on their journey towards rehabilitation and reintegrating in society.”
Tom added: “I’d love to see more artists, poets and writers involved in helping inmates to see life from a new perspective. And it doesn’t have to be as complicated as delivering a four-foot hollow cow into a Category C prison during a pandemic!”