Tuesday, August 13, 2013

New Sustrans Portrait Bench at Greenland Dock

I posted a few weeks ago about a planning application that I saw in Southwark News, which proposed a new statue at the northern end of Brunswick Quay.  I phoned the Southwark Council contact name printed on the planning notification, and although she knew nothing about it she was very helpful and gave me the name and email address of the Southwark Council person responsible, one Terence McLellan.  I phoned (no answer) and emailed (no reply) to see if any illustrations of what was being proposed were available and, given the lack of response, simply waited to see what would happen.  And lo !  A sculpture group appeared.

I've been away for several weeks, but on my return I was informed by a neighbour (who had gone through exactly the same no-reply path that I had been through with Terence McLellan) that the new sculpture had just been installed and could be inspected at the top end of Brunswick Quay, opposite The Moby Dick pub.  

As one of the people who commented on my post when I first found the planning proposal, it is one of a set to advertise cycling routes in London, placed by the Sustrans Portrait Bench Sculpture project (Sustrans promotes walking and cycling links).

Notable personages relevant to the given area are depicted in these sculptures.  In our case, representing Southwark, three individuals were singled out.  The first is Barry Mason, Rotherhithe resident, bicycle campaigner and wildlife enthusiast, who contributed a considerable amount to the success of the Surrey Docks Farm before dying in an accident a few years ago. Unless one of the figures has yet to be added, he is apparently represented as a cormorant on a post, with a bicycle leaning up against it.  Rather more conventional representations depict actor Michael Caine (perhaps an odd choice - he was born here but I don't know of any contributions that he has made to the area) and, more aptly, the remarkable Phyllis Pearsell, born in East Dulwich, who created the first A-Z map of London after walking 23,000 streets of 1930s London. 

I was sitting with a group of friends at the Moby Dick on Sunday looking across at it, and throughout the afternoon it was covered by different bands of children, who climbed all over it.  They were clearly not intent on damaging it and were enjoying it very much, and I hope that it is sufficiently robust to cope with one of its roles as a climbing frame.  A lot of people walking past also paused to have a look and it was good to see a piece of public art generating a bit of a response.  We have various pieces of public art in Rotherhithe, some of which are more successful with residents and visitors than others, and it is always interesting to hear how people react to them.

If you are interested in finding out about the other Portrait Benches in the Sustrans project, have a look at their Flickr page.

For anyone interested, the official opening of the Rotherhithe Portrait Bench is at 10am on Friday the 16th August.  I'll probably go and poke a camera in the general direction of the event if I have time.

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