The Totem being lifted into place… The Totem has a line of circles across it which represent the name
Stanway or ‘Stone Way’ which is the pre-Roman name for the location.

Stanway Totem Project

What is the Totem?

The ‘Stanway Totem’ was a public art commission for a public art wayfinding totem on the site of the (then unnamed) Lakelands Community Centre facility located on the Stanway Western Bypass.
The project was managed and designed by artist and walking trail designer Sara Hayes, from The Public Art Company, in association with Stanway Parish Council, Colchester Borough Council and Amphora Trading. During its creation the sculpture affectionately became known simply as ‘the Totem.’

The project was created to support, celebrate and inform about the building and opening of the brand-new community centre, for residents of the newly developed residential area of Stanway, on the outskirts of Colchester in Essex.

A coffee morning organised by St Albrights Church team and Church Without Walls,
local people watch a presentation about the Totem by artist Sara Hayes.

Who was it for?

Focussing on all things Stanway; local history, nature and arts, to create inclusive events to engage people living locally. It’s main goal was to design a ‘totem’ public art and wayfinding installation for Stanway. This was done via the engagement with residents, local schools and community groups.

Playing host to a number of free walking arts events, which engaged the community across all demographics, and culminating in an open day and celebration event for all to attend.
This series of events, workshops and walkshops were designed to raise public knowledge and thus the profile of the centre as it developed.

This ‘walk as art’ was created by Sara to use art to investigate Stanway with all our senses.
We took a walk with art materials, creating drawings of the local sites.


Initial sketches were done in pencil, the concept was drawn from research into the use of the human form, being inspired by the community that would be using the Centre on completion, and the people of Stanway.

The Totem has a line of circles, which represent the name Stanway or ‘Stone Way’ which is the pre-Roman name for the location. The Totem ‘skin’ or outer coating, reflects the nature and wildlife at the site, which it is proposed to develop into a nature reserve.

A thinner 2mm layer of Corten steel was bonded to the front of the Totem, this skin contained artwork
created to represent the flora and fauna on and around the Totem site.

The material chosen was Corten steel. It is designed to rust to a finished coating, which then ceases to rust further and protects the metal inside. It has great longevity for this type of installation.

A matching circular base plate covers the fittings and follows the theme with the natural elements and the centre’s name cut into it. A single light uplights the Totem at night.

The circular base plate follows the theme with the natural elements and the centre’s name cut into it.


The Totem installation was the culmination of this year-long project which began with community engagement and events, working with multiple partners to deliver, and ended with the five metre tall wayfinding sculpture.

Sara and the team were so pleased to get to know the locals of Stanway, its heritage and history and the next generation of Stanway’s population via Lakelands Primary School.

Katie Brooks, HR Manager from site team Hutton Construction, with artist Sara Hayes,
Stanway Council’s Donna Tristram, and a teacher from Lakelands Primary School.

The installation of the Totem was a fitting end to this community engaged project, and it is designed to be there for the next 30 years or more, while the area around it develops into a nature reserve.

The launch of the Lakelands Community Centre was celebrated by its new tenants ‘Colchester’s Anti Loo Roll Brigade’, a CIC formed during lockdown who went from strength to strength as a backlash to the hoarding of loo-roll, the new building will allow their organisation to grow.

The project was realised by a whole team behind the scenes, those who supported the project from the commisioning team and early partners Stanway Council, the site team and architects, helping to develop the base and fit the structure, our engineers for wind loading and fitting calculations, and the fitting team for getting it in place!

Stanway Walking Art Activity Pack

Still available, this FREE self-guided pack has bags of art projects for children based in Stanway and locally to complete out and about in Stanway…

Have a go at the projects, and share your results on:
#StanwayTotem #StanwayLakelandsCentre

Social media:

The entire story of how the Totem was made is still available on the social media pages here: