THE EUROPEAN COMMUNITY OF STONES AMPHITHEATRE
ECOS is a Community Sculpture from an original artistic concept by Barry Cooper, which he developed with John Fisher (then Principal of Frome College) in 1989. John’s successor, Barry Bates, gave valuable ongoing support.
A Living Space
The idea of placing an amphitheatre at the heart of the community of stones was proposed by Mike Walker (Chairman of ECOS). The sculpture was designed by Barry Cooper and Laurence Knee.
It is a Forum for future Prosperity, Peace and Goodwill between the peoples of Europe fostering cultural exchanges between young people, inviting International Festivals and encouraging other communities in Europe to build their own ECOS amphitheatres.
This ambitious project was realised with the considerable support of the quarrying industry, local companies and the people of Frome. The monoliths were donated by the twelve founding countries of the European Union in 1992.
Peter Chapman (Project Director) selected the stones in their country of origin to visually complement one another in the finished amphitheatre, arranged free shipping and agreed their final positions with the designers. Angela Yeoman of Foster Yeoman Limited gave generous sponsorship to the project.
The surveying, landscaping and engineering of the site were overseen by Grant Gellatly of Balfour Beatty. The local stone dressings of the auditorium and terraces were handpicked from local quarries by community volunteers. They were laid with great dedication by Frank Turner, with the assistance of Frome young people. Paul Williams supervised College students with the landscaping of the grassed areas around the stones and the terraces, and included the planting of trees from each European Community represented.
The project was honoured by the Royal Anniversary Trust that year, when Mike Walker, Peter Chapman and members of the College team were presented with a National Gold Award by Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, at St. James’ Palace.
ECOS was opened by Margaret Daly, M.E.P. in 1992 when Mike Walker, with Martin Dimery, Philip de Glanville, Annabelle Macfadyen and Bob Hinton, produced the first international ECOS Festival for young people, involving over 1000 participants. A highlight was Frome College’s production of the Rock Opera “Tommy”, which was followed in subsequent years by “The Wall “,”All You Need Is Love”, “Marina Blue” and “Migrant”.
In 2000 ECOS hosted a Virtual Festival and Community Play funded by the Millennium Commission. Barry Cooper worked with Malcolm Ward from Channel 4 to connect schools in the European stone locations via the internet. Lynne Porter and Nik Palmer’s Parachute Theatre Company, staged a Community Spectacular with giant puppets involving up to 500 local actors.
In 2004 Barry Cooper designed a further stage area and carved the Portland stone ‘Tree of Life’ (inspired by the carving of Aristides Varrias on the Greek stone) amongst 11 Holm Oak Trees. College students created 12 ‘cultural icons’ in the new stage floor. The extension was engineered by Mike Swanson and constructed by John Brown with Frank Turner. In the same year ECOS encouraged the building of an amphitheatre on Paros, Greece.
This plaque was unveiled by Angela Yeoman OBE DL on 5th July 2013