Make sure you turn your statue into a visitor destination

9th March 2021

We always advocate that each piece we create needs to have far more relevance than simply being a statue that commemorates a person or a moment in time. Something that ‘Paris’ has mastered time and time again.

They have the Arc de Triomphe and the Sacré Coeur; The Champs Elysees and the Eiffel Tower, all now visitor destinations in their own right.

The Eiffel Tower, for example, started life as the centrepiece for the proposed 1889 Exposition Universelle, a world fair to celebrate the centennial of the French Revolution. It was never considered something that would last the test of time and become an iconic destination in its own right, welcoming over 200 million visitors to date.

Part of the role of Monumental Icons is to add ‘the thinking’ behind the creation of each and every monument that is placed in our care. Helping to draw people together in order to shape and influence how and why a monument is created in the first place.

Of course, this includes its pose and what it will look like. But we go much further, carefully selecting the material it is made from, the manufacturing process and how it is cast. Is the plinth going to be produced in sections and does it have landscaping? Most importantly, why will people come and visit it in the future and what will they take away from their time here?

We can also help the project raise funds by producing maquettes and other limited-edition memorabilia.

A much closer-to-home example is the upcoming creation of the Jack Leslie statue. In being invited to tender for this highly significant piece of art, we have proposed that Jack should be seen heading the ball and not running or kicking it.

Helping to influence decision-makers that there is more to a moment than simply costs or the pose of the person/player. For example, did you know there is far more to the Clough Taylor statue than a piece of bronze skilfully massaged and shaped by sculptor Andy Edwards?

In fact, when asked by the owners of Derby County what we thought of the concept, we proposed that it needed to be more than a statue that celebrated Clough and Taylor leading to the team to the first division title (equivalent of the Premier League). It needed to go much further including being an inspiration for the future.

Winning silverware always retains value in sport. Football is no different. We believed it would be an opportunity missed if the statue celebrated the duos time at Derby County by focusing on the winning of a single trophy. Especially as they went on to achieve far greater things with Derby County’s biggest rivals.

Having been invited to join the working party for the Clough Taylor monument, we were asked for our comments on the proposal for the statue to be located on a plinth made from bricks that had been used at the Baseball Ground – a style that would match the ‘Lionel Pickering’ entrance constructed a few years before at the entrance to the north stand hospitality area.

Our response was to present a different concept for the structure, one that included a place for fans to sit, dwell and contemplate. Afterall there wasn’t, and still isn’t, anywhere else for you to sit and relax around the outside of Pride Park stadium.

Clough in particular, was a man of words. So, we felt this was an excellent opportunity to include words around the base of Clough and Taylor to depict what any successful partnership needs to stand for. These were not the words of Brian or Peter, they were our words and were included to depict the values needed in order to work together ¬– harmony, unity, integrity solidarity and victory.

They describe how, when you work together, whether that’s in a football partnership, as a community, united as a team, a commercial business or a marriage, if you stick together, pull in the same direction, do it with honesty and belief you will ultimately be successful (the victory). That doesn’t necessarily mean winning a trophy, it could simply be about survival or evolution.

Let’s remember, Clough and Taylor won the European Cup twice with Nottingham Forest. Surprisingly, the City of Nottingham only celebrated the team’s achievements with a statue of Clough not Taylor.

Our principal was to recognise success and that it comes from a ‘team’ effort and the reason the area where the Clough and Taylor statue now resides was named ‘Unity Plaza’.

We also suggested other changes to the design, reversing the decision to use a pose of Clough and Taylor holding the first division trophy above their heads – the usual triumphant gesture you associate when winning.

However, we believed it shouldn’t be all about winning, it was more about how they had won the league with a team of unknowns. They also did it as a partnership managing a team, something unusual in football at that time, just as it is today. But at Derby, they believed two heads were better than one, using individual strengths to find motivated players and to find a winning formula

They very much lent on each other’s strengths. They were opposites too but were attracted together. Brian the bad cop, Peter the good cop. These are the stories revealed by many of the players during our research for the creation of the monument.

The ideas didn’t stop there. Do you know that Clough and Taylor actually face towards the site of the Old Baseball Ground and their statue and plinth is positioned on a compass. With each angle pointing to a bronze plaque that highlights a key milestone in their lives – including the City Ground, Nottingham, home to Derby County’s biggest rivals.

However, in the case of the Clough Taylor monument, the compass had other meanings too. By placing the statue at the centre of the compass, it very much put Derby County at the heart of football and everything else at its peripheral. Again, more thinking and an illustration of the detailed approach that should go into the final resting place for every statue.

Meeting notes at that time record a football club representative saying: “If the board approves the idea of having the City Ground on a plaque, would we collective answer every email they received from disgruntled supporters?”. To this day they still haven’t received a single objection.

Our own experiences highlight the importance of appointing a ‘team’ like Monumental Icons to manage the process. A team that has the skills and experience to recognise ‘what’ as much as ‘who’ is being celebrated, delving into the thinking behind a statue.

In this way, you will bring longevity, learning and love to what has the potential to become not only a landmark piece of art but also a new visitor destination in its own right.

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