Artist Luke Perry Director of Industrial Heritage Stronghold has been working with 6th Form students from Walsall Academy and carrying out extensive consultation with the local community to develop designs for new pieces of public art work to celebrate the history and heritage of Bloxwich.
People said that it was important to:
- Celebrate the musical heritage of Bloxwich, specifically Noddy Holder and Rob Halford.
- That any pieces should be imaginative and radically different from formal interpretation.
- That heritage should be something relevant but exciting, efficiently interpreted.
- Represent Pat Collins fayre, in particular the showman style of entertainment enjoyed by all that was unique to Bloxwich and the Wakes.
- Represent the more recent loss of industry. Whilst Bloxwich is known for old traditional trades of blacksmithing and Awl making, people talked about companies who have only recently ceased to trade but were massive local employers e.g. Bloxwich Lock, Old Hall, Wiggins’, Chamberlin and Hill, Bloxwich Zink, Eclipse Stamping etc. A pride in the industrial metalworking heritage
With support from Walsall Local History Centre and local historian Stuart Williams further research informed the proposed designs.
The Stilt Walker
The design to celebrate Pat Collins Fayre needed to be iconic and simple, tall so that it could be seen past the railings and bushes in the memorial gardens where pedestrian access is limited.
The idea of the stilt walker was introduced during various interviews in the consultation, it then re-appeared in the various visual references that are evident in the books and records on Pat Collins’ fayre.
Standing at almost five metres tall with galvanised steel legs welded to a base plate which will be fixed to a concrete pad at its base. The torso section would be also be galvanised steel and coloured subtly to reflect the circus outfit.
The legs would be stained with colour where appropriate to give the striped circus effect of the traditional Pat Collins carnival.
The interpretation for this would be in the manor of a playbill accompanying the piece and will interpret the history of the town’s link to the Pat Collins Fayre and Carnival.
The site for this piece is naturally the Pat Collins Memorial Gardens, at the end furthest from the clock and nearest to the High Street. Here it will not be overshadowed by trees and will have great visibility from all sides whilst being a destination at the non access side for park users.
Rock From Metal – Bloxwich’s Musical Connection
There has been a great desire from all of the engagement to se a piece made which celebrates the two characters who have musically made the big time from Bloxwich, namely Noddy Holder lead singer of the band Slade and Rob Halford, lead singer of Judas Priest.
Though both musically and aesthetically at the opposite ends of the spectrum it is necessary to represent both equally and on the same artwork. This was initially an intimidating task until I heard a quote from Noddy and one almost Identical from Rob Halford where they both claimed to have been influenced by the brutal and often deafening nature of local industry. They both claim that the beat of the hammers and the gravelly voice which is endemic to Black Country life has shaped the way that their music evolved. I would also argue that they both have a theatrical level of ‘Showman’ in their performance which can’t be ignored when it is accepted that they are from a town celebrated for its Carnival atmosphere.
It is this that I have chosen to harness for the design, their famous accessories:
Namely: Noddy’s Hat and Chops, Rob’s Hat, Glasses and Studded Leather
Mounted at head height either side of a representation of the old Green Lane Works Chimney the iconic accessories will also act as positions for photographs so that viewers can be their icon, wear Noddy’s hat and Rob’s studs. This will again ensure that there is a great visual presence for Bloxwich on social media. This piece is proposed to be sited at the end of promenade gardens closest to the Pat Collins memorial Gardens.
By far the most dominant part of the narrative of community engagement was the referencing of local Industry, not necessarily the traditional industry’s like Awl manufacturing and chain-making or coal mining, though that was often spoken of. Rather the industries only recently deceased. Companies like Bloxwich Lock, Old hall, Elkingtons, Wilkes’s, Wiggins’, Excelsior Works, Drop Forging, Blast Furnaces and Press Works.
Most of these works (whose production was anything from kitchenware and cutlery to large car parts for the export market) used the industrial press seen above to push metal parts from either sheet steel or clip from around forged steel.
It is my intention to purchase an industrial press (already sourced) and use it as a plinth for a bronze sculpture celebrating the unsung workers of Bloxwich’s industrial past.
Though this is only comparatively recent history it is nevertheless a massive part of the heritage of the town and one which will become even more important to historians as time passes. This will be a way to very literally demonstrate to the viewer the massive power of past manufacturing.
This piece, standing at around 3 metres in height will be an original press welded solid and un-moving with a bronze sculpture of the worker fixed in place at the front.
The interpretation for this, the history and relevance for the sculpture will be fixed to the side of the press where the working controls usually are found. This is seen on the left hand side of the drawing above.
The figure itself will be bronze where the shirt, gloves and head, this will all be mounted onto a steel apron support which will hover above the ground by 6 inches next to and fixed to the press itself.
This piece will be installed on spot where the path ways converge in Bloxwich park where once stood the original bandstand. This is nearest to access from ‘the green’ road.
Pluto The Escaped Lion ‘An anecdotal Piece’ (watch the film to hear the full story)
This piece is one which will capture the imagination of the viewer with a minimum amount of interruption of the high street where space is at a premium.
As you can see the Lion was a common part of the Pat Collins Fayre, so unsurprisingly there were some escapes, some deliberate and planned for publicity but once a lion named Leo escaped from the compound and found its way into a house on Church Street. The Lion was captured without any violence but the story became part of the Pat Collins legend and consequently came through in the community engagement.
I propose to put a steel poster onto a column adjacent to the wall at 192 Church Street, the same aesthetic and fabrication as will be used to interpret the Stilt Walker. Leading from this and set into the floor will be a series of Lion’s foot prints stained into the block paving which is the existing flooring of the high street.
This symbol can also be hidden on the three other artworks, somewhere small so that they can be found by smaller children (and adults too) thus tying together the whole sculpture trail.