Ten things to celebrate about Swindon No 4: The sculptures. D: ‘The Great Blondinis’

sculpture of acrobats the great blondinis - public art

The Great Blondinis

Public art in Swindon: The Great Blondinis

I really, really miss The Great Blondinis. A sculpture of them used to reside in Wharf Green and I loved it. It was bright and colourful and didn’t half brighten up a dull day – and goodness only knows we get enough of those! I get that Wharf Green needed rejuvenating and, after initial cynicism, really love the big screen – I’ve enjoyed several fabulous evenings down there watching live streaming of opera and ballet – fantastic! How cool is it to have that facility in Swindon? But did we have to lose the Great Blondinis? 🙁

I know they weren’t everyone’s cup of tea being somewhat ‘loud’ but I really loved them. They are indeed garishly-coloured and imposing at 17ft tall. The sculpture was created in 1987 by John Clinch (also responsible for Diana Dors) using scraps of aluminium from Swindon’s railway works.

Indeed I think it’s the case that these lovely acrobats were the last thing to be cast in the GWR works.

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For those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about, the Great Blondinis were an acrobatic troupe who performed at circuses in Swindon in the 1920s.

I really don’t know if they are relation to Charles Blondin, if it’s the same person or if this pair nicked the name. I’m not sure.

But for info, The Great Blondini:

The “Great Blondin” was born Jean François Gravelet in France in 1824. He began performing in European cirucuses as a young boy and was known then as the “Little Wonder.” On June both 1859 he walked a tightrope suspended above the Niagara Falls rapids and became the first man to walk across the falls. 

He moved to England later in his life where he lived until his death in 1973. There’s even a Blondin memorial trust: http://www.blondinmemorialtrust.com

Anyway…post the sudden disappearance from Wharf Green that left me quite bereft I managed to discover that  the sculpture had been saved but I didn’t know where it had gone. Thanks to a certain non-tax paying (allegedly) search engine I do now. A quick furtle on the Internet found Duncan and Mandy’s website which reveals that the restored Blondinis now reside in St Mark’s park in the Ferndale/Gorse Hill area.

So whilst it’s great to see them all cleaned up I’m still sad I don’t get to see them anymore.

Some pictures from Swindon Local here: http://www.flickr.com/search/?q=great%20blondinis

Photo above from Jess Robinson.

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