You’d be forgiven for not knowing anything of the West Swindon Sculpture Walk. This morning I chatted to someone on the bus about this, and she, a long-time resident of Swindon had no idea that these sculptures existed.
The route to this one takes you through a part of West Swindon I’d never even heard of, let alone walked through: The Bramptons. Blimey! It was like entering another universe. They have a club. With a swimming pool! It was all a bit Stepford actually.
‘White Horse Pacified 1987. Artist: Julie Livsey. Materials: Steel and concrete. Project details: The sculpture was completed during an international artist exchange between Swindon and Lisbon, Portugal. Funded by the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, Southern Arts, Wiltshire County Council and Thamesdown Borough Council. The work is an interpretation of the famous chalk cut white horses surrounding Swindon’.
A further point – the friend doing the walk with me lives in Bristol so this was all new to her. So by this point in the proceedings she voiced questions already in my mind: ‘Why is this not better known?’, Wouldn’t some signage be a good idea?’ and ‘Some labelling on the sculptures themselves could be quite good too’.
As I said earlier – people who’ve been here a long time – or even were born here – have no awareness of this thing as an entity. So what flippin’ chance does anyone else stand? SBC, Swindon and Wiltshire tourism – you are missing a trick!
Walk it, cycle it, picnic it!
You can walk or even cycle this trail. It can be pic-nic(ed) There’s pub stops and play parks and out-door gyms along the way. It’s a great with a dog. Yeah – if you want to romp through it all, you could do it in a couple of hours. But hey – you could actually make a whole day of this thing. But nobody knows about it! Well not enough people anyroad!!!
Anyway dear readers, next up is ‘Hey Diddle Diddle”. I’ll leave you to think on that one. Until next time…. Here is a link to a map of this sculpture trail.
‘How the Mighty Fall 1989 – Artist: Tim Sandys-Renton. Material: Cast Aluminium, Cast Iron. Commissioned by Thamesdown Borough Council through the Percent for Art Policy’
In the first post of this series I wrote about the statue of Diana Dors outside the cinema at Shaw Ridge. The next statue my friend and I examined on the walk was the sculpture called How the Mighty Fall.
Like all the sculptures on this trail it was installed in the mid-late 1980s during the building of the western expansion.
The blurb we used on the walk describes the sculpture as inviting the observer to transport themselves into the future and view it as an archeological artefact from the 20th century. Which of course is somewhat the reality for it now …
Located on one of the many superb big green spaces that West Swindon features, it’s quite easy to forget that one is in the middle of a big conurbation. It needs little imagination to see the artist’s intention for the sculpture as a relic of a long gone civilization.
How the Mighty Fall
I really rather liked this piece of artwork – it’s definitely one of my favourites of the set. Certainly it brings transport to mind. From the initial approach it looks rather like an aeroplane that has crash-landed.
Viewed from behind it reminded me of some sort of carriage type conveyance with the ‘body’ of the carriage in the middle and the wheels either side. From one side there appears to be an impression of a face screaming – the eponymous mighty falling perhaps? In fact, whatever angle you look at it you see something new and thought provoking.
One doesn’t have to like a piece of art to find it interesting. But I did like this one. A lot. But hey – don’t take my word for it – go and have a look for yourself and see what you make of it.
So far then, we were pleased to find two on the list still in existence. But how many more of them did we find? And, more to the point, given the passage of time since they were installed, what sort of condition did we find them in? The rest of the posts reveal all.
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
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
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.
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.
10 things to celebrate about Swindon. No 4: The sculptures. A – ‘Looking to the future’
Swindon is home to an assortment of statues and sculptures –WSSW Part 7: Looking to the Future is one of them.
Not to everyone’s taste, arguments rage about whether the council should spend money on such things when services are always crying out for funding. It was ever thus.
Whatever the merits or otherwise of that argument, on a personal level, I rather like the fact that they exist even if I don’t love them all. They’re still interesting.
In fact, Thamesdown Borough Council commissioned the pieces that comprise the West Swindon sculpture trail in the period from the early 1980s to the early 1990s. Funding came, in part, from the housing developer’s contributions to the Percent-for-Art public realm scheme. An important feature of Swindon’s cultural make-up, these sculptures have neither the recognition nor attention and care that they deserve.
They’re tucked away with nothing to draw attention to them. One simply chances upon them when walking the many foot/cycle paths around Swindon. Installed in 1989, when West Swindon was developing, Looking to the Future is a case in point.
From the road one can see the pond and the footpath but not the figures as they recline in a corner almost obscured by reeds and undergrowth. The pond is in a disgusting state too. I’ve even seen ducks walk across it.