Public art in Swindon: Diana Dors
Artist: Jon Clinch. Installed in 1981
Right then, hands up. Who knew there was such an entity as the West Swindon sculpture walk? No? Me neither.
I only discovered it when rooting about the interweb for info for this blog. In the course of my research I came across this information and map of the trail. How interesting I thought. And how cool it would be to do the walk and see how many of them still exist and write about it. So this is WSSW Part 1: Diana Dors.
I’m the kind of girl that things naturally happen to. When they don’t, I give them a push’.
‘Project Details: Commissioned by Thamesdown Borough Council through the Percent for Art Policy, funded by Carter Commercial Developments. The sculpture is a flamboyant tribute to one of Swindon’s most famous and glamorous residents’.
As this is a long walk with a lot of material I’ll break it up into digestible chunks – so here we have WSSW Part 1: Diana Dors
See all posts on the West Swindon Sculpture walk here.
An opportunity presents itself
So a visit from a fellow student and a warm sunny day provided the perfect opportunity/excuse to give it a go.
According to the blurb about the walk, the five miles it covers should be completed in two hours at a leisurely pace. Ha! We were at it for nearly four hours and we still didn’t get them all done! But perhaps that’s because we took time out to slide down slides; try out the outdoor gym behind Shaw Ridge; chat to people along the way; stop for ice-cream at Shaw Village centre; get a bit lost, and have a beer at The Windmill, Freshbrook … all of which could just have had something to do with our failure to complete the route. Oops.
Anyway, as I can only just about find my home from the town centre I put my friend, Kim, in charge of the map and appointed myself curator of the ‘blurb’. First on the schedule is the statue of Diana Dors at Shaw Ridge leisure complex.
A legend on a legend
Obviously I’d seen this one before but Kim spent some time studying and discussing it. We decided that it’s clearly fitting that she is immortalized outside a cinema. It’s fitting also that it’s larger than life – as she most certainly was.
We also liked that the ‘legend’ (see picture) on the statue had been made to appear that her name was in lights – as indeed they had been. But we weren’t sure that it was particularly flattering of her – something of a caricature. And it’s really a pity that someone has stuck chewing gum under one of her nostrils which gives the effect of a giant bogey hanging there – deliberate I dare say! On the whole though, a cool thing that Britain’s answer to Marilyn Monroe has been remembered and recorded.
Diana Dors Memories
Being of a certain age I remember watching old black and white films starring Diana. I also have stronger memories of her being the lead in ‘Queenie’s Castle’ a British sitcom set in early 1970s Leeds, West Yorkshire that aired on ITV from 1970 to 1972.
Little did I know then, that one day I would be living in the town that is her birthplace. And, better still, be in striking distance of a cinema (Shaw Ridge, West Swindon) that is home to a statue of one of the town’s most famous daughters.
If you want to know more about the divine Diana, aka Diana Mary Fluck, you could do worse than visit the official website: http://www.dianadors.co.uk
Diana Dors has a literary alter ego. She’s Lola Vavoom in the stupendously surreal parallel universe created by the author Jasper Fforde in his Thursday Next novels. In his 7 Wonders of Swindon she is Wonder No 5.
A Blue Plaque for Diana
An aside – March 2021
Last month, the famous anthropologist Dr Desmond Morris gave a talk to the Friends of Swindon Museum and Art Gallery. Read the Friends’ blog about his talk here.
Desmond grew up in Purton and Swindon and enjoyed a youthful fling with Diana Fluck as she then was. So his lovely talk was full of wonderful reminiscences of the youthful Diana. You can see Desmond’s talk here on YouTube:
In search of statue No 2: How the Mighty Fall
So, having competed WSCW Part 1: Diana Dors we went off in search of sculpture no 2 on the walk. How the Mighty Fall.
As we were wending our way to the next one Kim decided that she would have a crack at interpreting it to see how close she got to the legend on the blurb. Close by were a play park and the outdoor gym. So those things distracted us for a good ten minutes or so. Eventually tiring of the pleasures (????) of the gym equipment we moved on to study statue no 2. But that dear reader is another story for another day.