‘Für Das Kind’ at Liverpool Street Station

Viccy Ibbett, Public Catalogue Foundation Volunteer, tells us about a touching sculpture at Liverpool Street station, commemorating the help given to refugees in World War II:

‘In Liverpool Street station it is easy to miss my favourite of London’s public sculptures, Für Das Kind – or ‘For the Children’, a bronze of two children with suitcases that is tucked away by the entrance to the underground station. It is easy to miss not only because the sculpture displays such a regular scenario of commuters and baggage that it blends into the crowd, but also because real life commuters are liable to interpret the statue’s generous plinth as an invitation to hunker down beside the little boy with their own baggage while waiting for a train.

The statue honours the famous Kindertransport system that sprang up in the UK during the second World War. In the early years of the war, the UK waived immigration restrictions in order to welcome over ten thousand European children who were fleeing from Nazi persecution. Children who arrived in the UK were placed with a foster family and promised a sum of money should they succeed in re-establishing contact with their families after the war.

The sculpture has had a chequered history. The artist, Flor Kent, originally dedicated quite a different sculpture in 2003. Then, the sculpture occupied a more prominent place in the station and consisted of only the bronze girl, standing beside a monolithic glass suitcase, which contained actual artefacts brought over to the UK by children arriving by Kindertransport. Now, the sculpture has been relocated to its current spot by the underground station and features both a boy and girl, with smaller bronze suitcases.Fur das Kind_ViccyLast week I was touched to notice that the sculpture had been transformed again, and this time not by the artist but by an anonymous commuter. A profusion of red, pink and white carnations had been placed in the arms of the girl, and over the plinth. It was a gesture of solidarity with the refugees currently attempting to escape into Europe, whose plight was most recently thrown into relief by the discovery of the drowned body of a two year old boy from Syria on a beach in Turkey. The sculpture no longer functioned merely as a reminder of the generosity of the British public in the past; it demanded that today’s refugees are afforded the same basic human consideration. As a work of commemoration, and as a piece of social activism, the flowers affected a potent renewal of the sculpture’s original message.

This use of art to convey a pressing social need reminded me of the efforts of state-sanctioned artists during the Second World War, who were commissioned by the British government to record the war effort at home and abroad. Of these, Mary Kessel stands out for her delicate studies in oils of German refugees after the German surrender. In her diaries, written in Berlin at the time this painting was made, Kessel instructs herself to ‘remember for ever those things that war has made’. Today, art has again been an important element in the public response to the refugee crisis. Creative Collective for Refugee Relief is an online platform where artwork can be sold and the profits donated to NGOs working with refugees.

When I returned to Liverpool Street Station the next day (to get a sharper photograph), the flowers were gone. I was disappointed. I even considered updating them myself. But despite and perhaps even because of, its short-lived nature, the carnations decorating the Für Das Kind sculpture succeeded in their aim of reminding me and other passersby of the imperative that the British recollect their past generosity and re-enact it today. The Für Das Kind sculpture itself, and its availability for this sort of public interaction, was an essential conduit for this message.’

Image credits: Image within text by Viccy Ibbett. Featured image https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AF%C3%BCr_das_Kind.JPG

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Top Five Public Sculptures: Stoke-on-Trent

Just choosing five favourite public sculptures in Stoke-on-Trent barely scratches the surface of the public art and monuments spread across the City. Walk or drive around any of the six towns and you’ll encounter both traditional and contemporary sculptures. New works seem to appear regularly.

The latest addition to the city is Golden, a 21ft-high, steel artwork covered in 1,500 glass balls and internally lit by LED lights. Taller than the Angel of the North, it will be seen for miles around. It was installed in May 2015, but its official opening and switching-on ceremony will take place this summer. I’ll wait to see it all lit up before I decide whether it makes it into my top five.

This is very much a personal top five list. If there are other public sculptures in Stoke-on-Trent that you particularly like, feel free to let us know what they are and why you like them.

Privilege_DenisOConnor_Stoke5. Privilege, Denis O’Connor, 2005, Cavour Street and Etruria Old Road

This 9m-high, stainless steel sculpture represents the pottery and steel industries, which used to flourish in Etruria before their demise, and the National Garden Festival, which was held in the area in 1986. Sited by the busy A53, the work is seen by an estimated 30,000 motorists each day. I see it on a regular basis from the car, but have only walked up to it once, to take this photograph on one of the wettest days I’ve ever experienced. Even in a hail storm it looked very impressive.2015-06-03 12.51.19 HDR-1Award-winning sculptor Denis O’Connor has another large public art work in the City, Tree Stories (above), which was created with community involvement to celebrate the local mining industry. Sited in Hanley, this work has also been placed next to a busy road and is seen by thousands of people every day.

Woropay_6_15Jan154. Hand with Chronos, Vincent Woropay, 1990, Stoke-on-Trent Railway Station

I have written about this sculpture before, as its current location does not do it justice, being sited at the far end of platform 2 at Stoke Railway Station where few people venture. If you make the effort to look at it close up, rather than from a moving train, you can see the fingerprints and lines on the hand, as well as the chronos in its palm.

Wedgwood 23. Josiah Wedgwood (1730–1795), Edward Davis, 1863, Station Road, Stoke-on-Trent

Probably the best known of the Staffordshire potters (from being good at marketing, as well as his ceramic-making skills), Josiah Wedgwood greets visitors as they leave Stoke-on-Trent Railway Station. He is seen holding his ceramic copy of the Portland Vase, the 1st-century Roman glass vase in the British Museum.2015-05-27 09.32.57 HDR-1Another, more contemporary sculpture of Wedgwood (above), by Vincent Woropay, was created in 1986 for the National Garden Festival. This brick head was in storage for many years before being repositioned in 2009. It is now sited by Etruria Hall, previously the home of Josiah Wedgwood and close to the location of his 1769 pottery factory. Etruria Hall, which can be seen in the background, is now part of a hotel.

A Man Can't Fly_42. A Man Can’t Fly, Ondre Nowakowski, 1989, Leek Road, Stoke-on-Trent

Sited next to a busy road junction in the City’s University Quarter and close to the railway line, this figure standing on one leg and trying to fly is apparently there to remind us that that ‘we are in too much of a rush to do too much for most of the time’. I pass it on the way to the station, usually whilst worrying if I’ll find a space in the car park, so it’s a message I probably should take on board.A Man Can't Fly_5Ondre Nowakowski works as a full-time freelance artist, has exhibited widely and has works held in public collections, including numerous large scale public art works in the UK.

Her Head_DhruvaMistry_Stoke1. Her Head, Dhruva Mistry, 1986, Gilman Place, Old Hall Street, Hanley

Most of the buildings around Gilman Place are boarded up in advance of development of the area, so this beautiful sculpture’s surroundings do not currently do it justice. This might have been a busier thoroughfare when the work was placed here in 1988, but I do wonder how many people see it. It’s not easily seen by car either, as its back faces the busy city centre ring road.

Dhruva Mistry was born in 1957 in Gujarat, India, and has art works held in major public collections in the UK, India and Japan.'Her_Head'_by_Dhruva_Mistry,_Harris_MuseumThe Harris Museum & Art Gallery, Preston, owns another version of Her Head (above), this one in plaster and shellac. You can also see an oil painting by Mistry on Your Paintings.

 

Further information on Stoke-on-Trent’s public sculpture:

Stoke-on-Trent Sculpture Trail

The Public Monuments and Sculpture Association has produced a book on Staffordshire and the Black Country in their Public Sculpture of Britain series, published by Liverpool University Press.

All images by Katey Goodwin, apart from the image of Her Head at the Harris Museum & Art Gallery, Preston: by Rept0n1x (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Matthew Flinders and Trim the cat at Euston Station

I thought I knew every inch of Euston Station, having spent many hours there waiting for the platform number for my train to appear on the departures board. Towards the end of 2014, however, I became aware that a new statue had been installed on the main concourse and I was amazed that I hadn’t spotted it before. As anyone who travels through Euston will know, it’s a really busy place, so I hadn’t seen the new sculpture as it was always obscured by large numbers of people surrounding it or sitting on it.

Travellers will pass two sculptures on their way in and out of the station. A statue of railway engineer Robert Stephenson (1803-1859) stands just outside one of the entrances:Stephenson_EustonThe other work is Eduardo Paolozzi’s large sculpture Piscator, 1980, dedicated to German theatre director Erwin Piscator:Paolozzi_EustonThe new addition to the station’s public art is a statue of scientist and navigator Matthew Flinders (1774-1814), credited with popularising the name Australia, and the first person to circumnavigate the ‘Great Southern Land’ and map South Australia’s coastline. The statue, by sculptor Mark Richards, shows Flinders leaning over a chart of Australia, dividers in hand, accompanied by his faithful pet cat Trim. Flinders Euston_3_9March15Flinders is not a household name in the UK, but he is well known in South Australia where the Flinders Ranges, Flinders Chase National Park, Flinders Street and Flinders University all bear his name. A large number of statues erected in Flinders’ honour can be seen around Australia, apparently only second in number to statues of Queen Victoria. The statue at Euston is the second of Flinders and Trim to be erected in the UK, with the other unveiled in 2006 in Flinders’ birthplace, Donington, Lincolnshire.

Trim the cat was born in 1799 on the Southern Indian Ocean and accompanied Flinders around Australia and to Mauritius. He was described as ‘the best and most illustrious of his Race, the most affectionate of friends, faithful of servants, and best of creatures’. Trim is a much-loved cat even now, with a dedicated Wikipedia page and his own merchandise at the State Library of New South Wales.Flinders Euston_4_9March15Matthew Flinders died in England in 1814 aged 40 and was buried at St James, Hampstead Road, London. The church was demolished in the 1950s and it is rumoured Flinders’ remains are buried under one of the platforms. Some sources say platform 4 or 5, whilst others say his grave might lie somewhere under platforms 12-15.

Mark Richards’ statue was unveiled by Prince William at Australia House, London, on 21 July 2014. In his speech, Prince William said that he felt particularly honoured to have been invited ‘to celebrate a man who did far more than anyone to place Australia – quite literally – on the map’. The statue was subsequently installed within Euston station.

Many more details about Matthew Flinders’ fascinating life and work can be found on the Flinders Memorial website, which is worth visiting to see images of the creation of statue in progress. A collection of letters and documents about Flinders are held by the National Maritime Museum and can be viewed online.

Thousands of people pass by this impressive memorial each day and I hope that some of them will take a moment to look closer at Matthew Flinders and Trim the cat, rather than just use the plinth as a seat or a place to put their fast-food wrappers.