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TO celebrate the year of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and the London Olympics, the world’s largest image of the Union Flag in Cowes is being repainted.

The giant hangar doors at Venture Quays were first painted in 1977 to celebrate the Queen’s Silver Jubilee. Now 35 years on this world-famous, 46m x 12m permanent image of the Union Flag will be revitalized, commissioned by the Artemis Offshore Academy, to celebrate a glorious year for Great Britain in 2012.

Over the next six weeks the painters will be busy finishing off the giant Union Flag and they will be joined by a host of supporters who will be picking up a paint brush to add their lick of paint in this mammoth task! From world renowned sailors, such as Dame Ellen MacArthur, Dee Caffari and Brian Thompson through to Olympians and more.

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Their efforts will be boosted by the local community from the Isle of Wight including school children from the Holy Cross School in East Cowes, the East Cowes Mayor Jane Rann and local artist Lynn Young, already famed for her selection of Union Flag paintings.

The aim is to involve as many people from the local community to celebrate the revival of East Cowes’ most famous landmark.

Originally built in 1935 by British aero- and marine-engineering company Saunders-Roe, the Columbine Shed has been at the forefront of British maritime innovation. Before WWII, the firm specialised in manufacturing powerboats such as Sir Malcolm Campbell’s Bluebird – Campbell set the water speed record four times, his highest speed being 141.740 mph (228.108 km/h) in the Bluebird K4 on 19th August 1939 on Coniston Water, England.

In 1946, SARO began construction of the world’s largest passenger seaplane, The Princess. It was also on this site in 1957 that Sir Christopher Cockerell began pioneering the world’s first Hovercraft, the ‘SR.N1’ inspired by a coffee tin, a KiteKat tin, a hair dryer and a pair of scales! And in 1977, the British Hovercraft Corporation first painted the Union Flag on the doors of the Columbine Shed to mark the Queen’s Silver Jubilee.

To this day the Columbine Shed at Venture Quays is still a working boat yard, home to the Artemis Offshore Academy, a British solo offshore sailing academy of excellence, and South Boats who build and maintain aluminium catamaran work boats.

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The painting of the giant Union Flag will be finished in time for the Queen’s visit to the Isle of Wight on the 25th July and the start of the London Olympics on the 27th July. The visit forms part of the Queen’s tour of the United Kingdom to mark the year of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.

Visit the new Facebook site and Twitter pages to follow the work in progress. Send us your historic pictures of the Columbine Shed and we will post them on our Facebook page.

Image: David Jones

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