Public art in Swindon: Diana Dors

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.

As this is a long walk with a lot of material I’ll break it up into digestible chunks – so here we have part 1.

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 – see blog post about her sculpture.

The walk description has this to stay on this sculpture:

Diana Dors – Film Star 1991. Artist: John Clinch. Material: Bronze. 

'Legend' on Diana Dors statue

‘Legend’ on Diana Dors statue

‘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’.

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.

Close up face of diana dors statue

Diana Dors close up showing chewing gum ‘bogey’. 🙁

So, having duly digested Diana Dors we went off in search of sculpture no 2 on the walk.

Kim on outdoor gym.

Kim on outdoor gym.

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 finally moved on to study statue no 2 on the walk. But that dear reader is another story for another day.

NB: Diana Dors has an alter ego as 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 W0nder No 5.



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