Plans start to take shape for ‘big, iconic’ roundabout sculpture
Consultations with more than 100 people about the design of a new landmark sculpture that will welcome people to Tamworth as they step off the train have revealed an overwhelming common theme – the town’s rich Saxon history.
Although ideas are still taking shape, sculptor Luke Perry has revealed that the finished design is likely to be a ‘big and iconic’ figurative piece which reflects the town’s Saxon history, but with an ‘alternative, modern twist’ that places it firmly in the 21st century.
It will also likely be created in the style typical of one of Tamworth’s best-known historical companies, Gibbs and Canning Limited, which was widely renowned for its manufacture of architectural terracotta, including statues of lions and pelicans which adorn the Natural History Museum in London.
Award-winning public artist and sculptor, Luke has been commissioned by Tamworth Borough Council to create a landmark sculpture for the Offa Drive/Saxon Drive roundabout outside Tamworth Railway Station, where it will greet visitors to the town.
The ‘Roundabout Art’ project is one element of the Arts in Unusual Spaces initiative, funded by Arts Council England, which will see art in all its forms popping up in a variety of locations across the borough.
Luke has spent the last few weeks speaking to shop workers, businesses, market traders, shoppers and local historical groups – including at a public engagement evening at Tamworth Town Hall – to find out what they are most proud of about Tamworth and what they most want to show off to visitors.
Their thoughts and ideas are now being used to form the final design.
Luke said: “People are incredibly proud of Tamworth’s rich history; including its Georgian history and its more recent industrial heritage, but almost everyone mentioned the Saxon links, in some form or another.
“Although I can’t say what the finished design will be as I’m not there yet, the concept I’m beginning to form is of a really beautiful piece of work reflecting that Saxon heritage. It will be a figurative piece, human in form, which people will identify as being incredibly ‘Tamworth’. I want to create something big and iconic, yet simple in design.
“Gibbs and Canning also came up a lot and the style they worked in was really beautiful and really architectural so I will be trying to mirror that neo-classical design.
“There was also a definite desire to have something with a bit of an alternative and modern twist. It would be very easy to make a regular piece of historical sculpture, but that’s not what I do and it’s not what people want.
“It won’t be too off-the-wall, but I want to create something that sits well in the community, but also looks as if it is part of modern history, reflecting the fact that Tamworth is being invested in now, at this time, not 100 years ago.”
Luke will spend the coming weeks exploring the concept further with more in-depth academic research to corroborate the ideas put forward and to make sure any historical detail is accurate. He is hoping to move to design stage at the end of this month when he will begin work on drawings and a scale model.
Luke is a well-known artist across the Midlands and has become a real champion of Tamworth, having previously designed the Trotters Trail pig sculptures and the new hand-carved flagstones on Ladybridge.
The sculpture is being funded jointly by Tamworth Borough Council, Arts Council England and the Tamworth Gateways Project – which aims to improve links to the town centre. The second phase of Gateways is currently underway, with £500,000 being spent on improving both the visual aspect and accessibility of the roads around Tamworth Railway Station and routes to the town centre. The project is a partnership between Staffordshire County Council and Tamworth Borough Council.
Cllr Steve Claymore, Tamworth Borough Council’s Cabinet member for Regeneration, said: “As a council, we have been working very hard to improve and regenerate Tamworth town centre and turn it into a real destination once more. The Gateways project is a crucial part of that and this sculpture has the potential to become a key landmark. “Currently, there’s nothing to welcome people when they arrive in Tamworth by train. The ideas put forward are very exciting and the end result will hopefully be something that makes a real bold statement about the town and encourages visitors to explore it further.”
Cllr Joy Goodall, Cabinet member for Environment & Culture, added: “Tamworth Arts in Unusual Spaces is a two-year initiative being delivered by the Arts & Events team. Tamworth has an amazingly rich heritage and culture and Roundabout Art in particular is about celebrating that, so it’s great to hear the people of the town appreciate and take pride in their history.
“I’m even more excited now to see the final design take shape.”