FEW people have had such an impact on Swindon’s cultural landscape in recent years as artist, writer, designer and heritage project manager Mike Pringle.

A veritable Renaissance man, artist, author and director of the Richard Jefferies Museum, Mike is passionate about the cultural and heritage landscape of Swindon and most recently hit the headlines when his latest artistic creation, a 5.5-metre high laser-cut sculpture celebrating the town’s industrial and technological heritage, was unveiled at the Orbital shop centre.

Based on the shape and size of a Spitfire wing, and featuring the outlines of an engineer and pilot, the artwork honours the people of Swindon whose skill and industry proved so important in helping to win the Battle of Britain, when Britain was defending itself against Nazi Germany.

This is not the only time Mike, 56, from Old Town, has made an impression on the artistic landscape of the town. In 2011, when director of cultural development for Forward Swindon, he came up with the idea of decorating the side of Alexander House with a traffic scene, using the replica fibreglass Minis which had just been removed from the Mini plant in Gypsy Lane.

The design was inspired by the winners a competition organised by the building’s owners, Lenta Business Centres, and Link Magazine, and also featured a painted roadway with zebra crossing and plastic road signs, referencing the town’s iconic Magic Roundabout.

“We asked people to come up with designs and they came up with some wonder, crazy things, that were impossible to do, so I came up with this idea. The Minis were part of Swindon’s history. We wanted to sing about the great things of Swindon, so people will feel a part of that.

“I do love Swindon. I loved living in London, Bath and Salisbury too, but Swindon is sort of open – it has a real hard edge. If you do something new and get it right, you will be cheered. If you get it wrong, you’ll be booed.”

Mike, whose father was in the army, was born in Salisbury. Growing up, he spent nine years in Germany then went to boarding school in Portsmouth – an experience he remembers fondly.

“I loved it!” he said. “Living with my mates. I enjoyed the great outdoors, making dens and so on.”

His career began with a post at the American Museum in Bath, which he describes as his first proper job. Mike created educational displays and tended the American antiquities.

“I have swung between graphics, arts and heritage from that day onwards,” he said.

Mike went on to be a graphic designer and illustrator for publishers Usborne Books, Collins and Random House, as well as the BBC. He also designed record covers – for classical albums and also for records by big stars like Bob Marley and Joan Armatrading.

“I was living in London, in Camden, for ten years. It was a great place and I enjoyed aspects such as visiting museums whenever I liked. I was less keen on the smog and the chaos.”

He moved back to Wiltshire in the early 1990s and did a degree in archaeological illustration at Swindon College, and then a PhD in the use of virtual reality and human computer interface – which involved exploring ways graphics could be used to search for complex information for the then Royal Commission for the Historical Monuments of England, based in Swindon. He went on to share his expertise with lots of top arts organisations.

Later, Mike became director of the Swindon Cultural Partnership, which merged with the local regeneration company to form Forward Swindon, as director of cultural development.

“I was helping small groups to sing from the roof tops about themselves, using the latest technology. It seemed like a great job – bringing together all the recent strands of my work, but in my local town.”

It was at this point that Mike began to discover the work of Swindon’s nature writer, Richard Jefferies. He wanted to build on the writer’s legacy, and to make sure Jefferies’ childhood home, near Coate Water, was used for the benefit of the community.

“It took a long time to persuade people we should take it on,” he said. “The garden was completely overgrown; the cottage was empty. At the time, one councillor wanted to sell it.”

Now the museum, owned by Swindon Borough Council, is run by the Richard Jefferies Museum Trust, a which took over the museum as a charity in 2014. With Mike and Hilda Sheehan as volunteer co-directors, the museum has become an important and popular hub for arts, community, heritage and education event, with a mission to reach out to people from all backgrounds.

But Mike is evidently never one to stand still; he is already chewing over plans to strengthen the museum trust into a sustainable future, with a proposal to build a hall for community use.

“I’ve been building a model for about a year, and we’re planning an exhibition about future plans,” he said.

He is also working on another sculpture for South Swindon parish council, to commemorate the centenary of the end of World War I, to be set up in the GWR park on Faringdon Road before November.