On the 7th of August 2012 I watched the unveiling of a statue of charity fundraiser Snowy Farr outside the Guildhall in Cambridge.
It has been reported the statue cost £50,000. In my view spending this sum of public money to commemorate a fund-raiser doesn’t make sense, it amounts to somewhere around half of what he raised through his activities. This is money which has been raised by taxes on Cambridge’s housing sector at a time when large swathes of the city’s population are struggling to afford somewhere appropriate to live.
Mayor Shelia Stuart gave a speech in which she said the statue was “funded by housing developers”, she stated “the funding we have can only be spent on public art work”. I thought her wording was slippery as she gave the impression the money was given willingly by developers when in fact it is a tax, which the Liberal Democrats running the city council have decided to levy, and dedicate to public art, adding to the many factors which make housing expensive in Cambridge.
If we are to have a statue I think an opportunity has been missed not to continue the work of Snowy Farr and include a coin slot in, or near, the statue allowing people to continue to make charitable donations. Onlookers at the unveiling said this idea had been popular, but rejected by the council on the grounds of cost of collecting the donations.
Perhaps if, or when, an explanation of the statue is placed on the wall of the guildhall this missing feature can be added.
As for the statue itsself I think it is very gaudy and quite a contrast to its surroundings. To me it says “dolly mixtures”. I think its astonishing councillors plan to leave it in such a prominent position. I was surprised when it appeared out the front of the Guildhall, in the middle of the pavement, rather than as was being suggested previously, to the side.
Notably the executive councillor currently responsible for the statue, Liberal Democrat Rodrick Cantrill, was not present at the unveiling. The statue, which I described to the Cambridge News at the unveiling as a “carbuncle”, adds to Cantrill’s other additions to the city’s public spaces which include mushrooms on Jesus Green and a windmill on Midsummer Common. To my knowledge Cllr Cantrill has avoided being photographed by the press next to any of his contributions to the cityscape.
Following the unveiling I considered the statue’s climbability. An ascent looked quite practical to me, and I asked the Mayor Stuart if she thought drunk people would climb it in the evenings. She responded
“We hope so.”
I suspect the statue may be the source of many headlines in the press over the coming years. Will people climb it and get injured, will pigeons take to it and deface it, will the potential scrap value of an aluminium mouse make either the mice, or even the whole statue attractive to metal thieves?
On maintenance the artist wrote:
The sculpture will be incredibly robust and made out of aluminium and bronze. I’ve worked on outdoor commissions before using these materials and think they’re ideal not just for their appearance but also strength and zero maintenance issues. The blots are all marine-grade and rust proof. The sculpture is at an angle and has weeping holes so that rainwater can slide right off. The base is painted in anti-grafitti paint. The coloured shapes are heavy duty powder coated aluminium, which makes it extremely hard to scratch or damage, even if someone tried to do so intentionally. The sculpture can just be left to its own devices and can be exposed to the elements with no maintenance or damage issues.
The commission proposal also shows us taxpayers some of the other artworks we’ve paid for by the artist, in similar style. One of the previous works we’ve bought appears to be in an internal courtyard at a Home Office office block, at least Cambridge’s is accessible to the public.