Public art in Swindon: The 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! They’re wasted in Gorse Hill where they now reside.

I know they weren’t everyone’s cup of tea being somewhat ‘loud’ but I really loved them. I’ll grant that they are indeed garishly-coloured. Imposing too at 17ft tall. In 1987 John Clinch (also responsible for Diana Dors) created the sculpture using scraps of aluminium from Swindon’s railway works.

As far as I know these lovely acrobats were the last thing cast in the GWR works.

Who were the Blondinis?

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.

sculpture of acrobats - The Great Blondinis in Gorse Hill
The Great Blondinis

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. Back then he 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:

Anyway…post the sudden disappearance from Wharf Green that left me quite bereft. Where had it gone? 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 remain sad that I don’t get to see them anymore.

Some pictures from Swindon Local here:

Photo above from Jess Robinson.

For more posts about public art in Swindon go here. And here’s a post about the restoration work on The Blondinis by Swindon artist, Tim Carroll.