We recently went to see the huge sculpture in St Helens sited on a former colliery. Dream was made in consultation with local community groups by the Spanish sculptor Jaume Plensa. Born in Barcelona in 1955 I first saw his work in a highly influential exhibition at oriel 31 in newtown, Powys in 1994 as part of a uk wide festival of Spanish arts. There are also fine examples of early work at the Yorkshire sculpture park. One of the defining aspects of his work is it’s poetic quality and nowhere is this more clear than in dream.

The walk up to this incredible work is most unpromising. You walk across the post industrial landscape of the mine, to the soundtrack of cars on the nearby m62. The artificial woodland that has been created adds to the sense of the unreal as you come to the top of a hill and turn the corner to be confronted by this fairy tale face, benevolently, calmly waiting for you. There is something immediately calming about her. She radiates inner contemplation. On the rainy day we went we sheltered under her chin as she faced out from St Helens towards widnes and the river Mersey. She is a powerful innocent, a beacon of hope

Gary Connolly, a former miner, was talking about the project on BBC radio 4s midweek programme, which I think is available to download from iTunes. The process of commissioning took 4 years. The sculpture is 60 feet tall and is a far cry from the traditional mining memorial. It is a nine year old girl’s face which has then been elongated by a third. It is made from White self cleaning marble composite. 1.9 million pounds was raised for the project, none of it tax payers money.

The sculpture has become an icon for St helens. It shines out of the darkness of a struggling recent past. When I was at school in the 80s thatcher was in the process of destroying what had been a community. This piece seems to take into account all that St Helens was, has been, is, and will be in the future. The piece is guaranteed for 100 years. I wonder what St Helens will be like in 2112.

Link to Dream website.


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