Public art in Swindon: The Blondinis

I really, really miss The Blondinis sculpture. It 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 now in St Mark’s park in Gorse Hill.

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. Indeed – the last thing ever cast in the Works in No 10 shop – cast in four sections and welded together. Below you see an image of part of the sculpture being cast.

Gary Hazell and Hughie Royle casting part of the Blondinis sculpture in the GWR Works
Gary Hazell and Hughie Royle casting part of the Blondinis sculpture in the GWR Works
The Blondinis in Thamesdown News
The Blondinis Sculpture featured in Thamesdown News. Note – the Boldinis and even Bodinis- typos I assume?

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 – photo from Jess Robinson

I really don’t know if they are any 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 Blondin:

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 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 1897. He’s buried in Kensal Green cemetery in London. There’s even a Blondin memorial trust: http://www.blondinmemorialtrust.com

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 Studies here: http://www.flickr.com/search/?q=great%20blondinis

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.

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