The Regeneration Game (via Pigblog)

I notice tonight that The Stymaster, late of this parish, has been appraising the state of the statues and artworks assembled in Walsall Wood 18 months ago. I’ve never been supportive of them, and still think much better things could have been done with £40,000, but my views are well recorded and it’s good to know I’m not alone in feeling that the installations now look rusted, tatty and unpleasant.

In the process of chatting to The Stymaster on twitter tonight, he turned up this page on the website of the creator, Luke Perry and his organisation, Industrial Heritage Stronghold. It apparently is a testimonial by Glen Buglass, manager of the Creative Team at Walsall Council; here is an interesting snippet:

To show just how much the sculptures are loved by people who live in the area, over 600 people attend the opening ceremony. From the day they were installed to this, the works have not been touched; they have not been covered in graffiti and they have not been damaged. There has not been one word of criticism about them in the press or through Council channels.

This is patently rubbish. I’ve no doubt about the attendance (after all, free food was available), but as to the works not being touched – Bob the fish going missing twice, graffiti on the fisherman’s plinth, vomit over one of the figures and the necessity to subsequently install anti-climb paint on the pithead seem to have been conveniently forgotten. As to criticism, Rod the Angler was panned in the Express & Star over his headgear, and there’s a sizable camp in the Wood who openly state that it’s all a waste of money.

I tip my fisherman’s hat to The Stymaster and hope this fad for wasting public money on junk and calling it regeneration soon passes. Not one single life (except perhaps that of Mr. Perry) was improved by this, and not one job created. It’s more usually referred to as fiddling while Rome burns.

The Regeneration Game

 This is something BrownhillsBob has mentioned on more than one occasion , and several separate conversations with friends and my dear better half prompted me to vary my Sunday morning cycle route this morning for some illustrative pictures to accompany a rant. They’re only cameraphone snaps, but they serve the purpose.

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16 Responses to The Regeneration Game (via Pigblog)

  1. D.Evans says:

    Hi Bob
    Oh dear. Well, here we go. I am delighted that those who gave so much in the past have been honoured and remembered in the statues in Walsall Wood. Perhaps those who pass by may take a few moments and read what is written on the statues. Personally I am pleased that the legacy of hard toil that my forebears , old friends and workers in the Coppy Pit, on the Canals, and in the Brickworks who all endured the terrible conditions and suffered severe and life-curtailing health problems to help create today’s society is remembered in a permanent way. It would seem abundantly clear that another kind of ” regeneration” is becoming self-apparent… ..and I hope that those who are patently in need of their own personal regeneration will look at the artwork and consider what contribution of their own will deserve to be remembered , if any.

    With kind regards
    David Evans

  2. Here we go? Oh, OK.

    Dispensing with the bluster, I’ve made my feelings about the civic mining sculpture racket quite clear previously here. Both myself and Stymaster have a deep engagement with local history and if it’s us you refer to with the snide ‘regeneration’ comment, that saddens me deeply. I know from his writings that Stymaster cares deeply for the area and for it’s engagement with mining. I’ve put a huge amount of work into telling the stories of the miners, the workplace and the tapestry of industrial history with which they are interwoven. To suggest either of us do them a disservice because we don’t like what has frankly been and empty gesture is wrong. Very wrong.
    Miners lived brutal, abused lives. Those that still survive don’t need empty gestures. They don’t need statuary to rust and be shit on by pigeons. They need good healthcare provision, good housing and decent care in their old age. They need to see that their sacrifices were not in vain. 50K on junk, to add to the hundreds of thousands wasted on such tributes locally could shorten a lot of waiting lists and provide good palliative care.
    I would wager that nobody has been prompted to look into the history of anything by these artworks. Luke Perry is a very charismatic figure and I can see how he sold the concept, and the whole theatre – including the top hat – was an act of arch showmanship. All that happens is for a few weeks, the art is novel, people look and discuss, and then, as time passes, they become background, ambient visual noise. You can’t force history into people. They will come upon it via their own path. That’s why I write about it. That’s why people like the CCMHS and Brian Rollins have a whole cannon of work. So the truth is there when folk come looking – not some stylised, airbrushed, Hovis advert history, but the deprivation, suffering, and brutality – but also the pride, grace, community and dignity. The truth, in other words.
    Their memory is insulted by the rusting metalwork – in one case, ignorantly flying the flag of the institution that killed the community it pays tribute to. Rusting metalwork unveiled by representatives of the party that closed their industry and destroyed communities. The same people who would repeal the very things those old miners and their union tradition fought for – the social state, civic pride, the NHS. That, to me, is an insult. Many of those in their suits, gladhanding the OAP’s at the civic receptions for such events would cross the road to have avoided a real miner. I loathe that with a passion.
    I doubt in the course of things that I will be remembered for anything much, unless I break the sound barrier on my bike or die in a freak blogging accident. However, I’d quite like it to be thought that while I was alive, I tried quite hard to present local history and news in a manner that provoked thought and discussion. That maybe helped tell a story, of which I was just a single molecule.
    I’m sure there are people who love this stuff. The fact that I and Stymaster do not does not mean we disrespect the history. Quite the reverse, it’s because we respect the history that we feel so aggrieved by the hollowness of the artwork.

    Best wishes


  3. D.Evans says:

    Hi Bob

    The artwork is a fine and enduring tribute to those I mentioned in my comments and in other contributions in other articles,and I applaud both the artwork and the tribute . I have little or no time for those who choose to vomit on, deface or damage this memorial, and In the same way I am saddened that the Barr Beacon War Memorial has been damaged, again. Nothing snide here. A personal generation..of respect , Bob, ,is what is patently needed in some quarters..and, perhaps by learning more about the terms of human suffering and endeavour, this might come about.

    Like you, Bob and Stymaster , I expect that, in the course of time, the Grim Reaper will pay his visit and then our cycling, or whittling days will be over. I hope he gives me time to finish my pint first, though!

    Best wishes
    David Evans

  4. stymaster says:

    David, I feel you have missed my point, or at least I hope so.

    To insinuate that my dislike of some crappy, unmaintained public artwork and the suggestion that said artwork can regenerate our neighbourhood in some magic way means that I’m some empty, shallow individual who cares not a jot for the hardworking people that built it is, frankly, insulting. A bit of art is not going to help businesses, the community, or anything else that really counts.

    The respect and community spirit these works have awakened is self-evident by the staining and the missing fish.

    What I really have in my sights here is the idea that a cash-strapped council can make everything good with a few tons of expensive laser-cut steelwork which is now looking much the worse for wear.

    Bob’s comments above ring true: He’s elaborated on the point better than I can.

    Read this line from here and tell me it’s right, if you can.

    Now the weathering patina is working into the steel, the sculptures have taken on a permanence that compliments the proud spirit of Walsall Wood people. Luke has done much more than create some sculptures for a little midland town on the edge of the Black Country that used to be a mining town. He has created a new heart for the area and a heart that will endure for many years to come.

    As to being remembered? Well, a few people will probably remember me, but I doubt I’ll make enough impact to command public art. Should I do so, can I have the non-rusting, not neglected variety?

  5. D.Evans says:

    Hi Stymaster
    I hope you accept my condemnation of those whose mindless acts of wanton vandalism, showing a lack of respect, in my view, hold no place in the values which we were brought up to hold. That is my point and I hope that you and Bob share this view.
    I don’t doubt that the artworks here in a once thriving and socially cohesive mining community do bring criticial views. But that does not justify or excuse any of the deliberate criminal actions at all.
    Like you I doubt whether any artwork in itself will bring investment in to the community, but I do notice the latest building going up at the old Coppy Mine Industrial site and am pleased to see this..very close to the Pithead statue..
    There is no insunuation. Just a simple statement of utter dismay, and disappointment at the actions of some. . Hence my view that a more important personal regeneration..of respect.. is needed in some quarters.
    I doubt whether any artwork will bring this but I live in hope. Yet, if only as a public recognition of all the things I have mentioned previously I am glad that , as a son of the former Mining Community here, a sign of public respect for our forbears’ generation has been erected… belatedly.
    The personal comments made in the article and which appear in some of the comments about the artist do not merit a reply.
    You and Bob have expressed your views . You may not know that the artworks are what the local community working group , working with Luke over quite some time agreed on, as was revealed in the opening day at St John’s Church..and , again, I urge those who pass by to take a few moments to read what is written on each of the works.
    Like you, Stymaster, I am not really bothered whether people remember me in the future or not, but I do give my views under my own name.
    I appreciate very much you and Bob’s ongoing interest and endeavours in revealing and exploring our local history..and have shared information willingly . This is an interesting and important area , I believe, and I hope that this continues in a positive and constructive manner.

    Best wishes
    David Evans

    • Hello David.

      One of the unsettling things about debating subjects can sometimes be the way in which the original subject is subverted and twisted into something else. I see this is occurring. A quick look at either this blog or that of Stymaster show how we both abhor vandalism, so that’s moot. Of course everyone condemns it.
      Moving past that, these artworks will never, ever bring investment. The discussions for the factory currently going on at the Maybrook were well advanced long before our regeneration binge, and I’d be frankly wary of anyone who moved a multi-millon pound business based on an inanimate sculpture on a sports field.Such decisions are made on sound commercial values and councils who delude themselves otherwise always amuse me. In the end its the money that decides every time, and always should.
      Luke Perry is a showman, and whether you like that or not, my comment stands. Looking at the pithead yesterday, 50% of the fasteners are stainless and the others are not, scattered randomly throughout the structure. So he’s clearly no engineer, either. It looks awful. You clearly like the chap, that fine. I just see the result and think we got very bad value.
      i know exactly how the artworks came about. I know well how these projects work. That’s why the showmanship works, otherwise little would get done.
      Anonymity? My views are the same however I choose to express myself, and I have good reason for protecting my identity thanks, and I can assure you, it’s nothing to do with this subject. Someone with no integrity doesn’t spend the huge amount of time doing this that I do, and I’m certainly not doing it for the recognition.
      I have a deep respect for the past, but I also look forwards. Art has it’s place. The pithead and rusting iron people may well fill you with pride. I’m looking in the other direction and watching my community die, the elderly going uncared for and services being cut to the bone. These are the things the miners fought to give us. We need to fight to preserve those, rather than being bribed with trinkets. Politicians of all hues have let our community, and that of Walsall down for decades. All we get are the crumbs brushed off the table. We need to change that.
      I appreciate and welcome your contributions. You always have interesting input for any subject at hand and always look forward to reading your comments. However, I’m not going to hold off saying what I feel because it may offend. This blog has evolved in the two years and 609 posts since it started. I’ve never minced my words, and never will. There are few fora for debate these days and this is one of them, of which I’m proud and invite all with an interest to join. The Stymaster has been at this much longer than I have and a cursory examination of his blog will show a man who also cares deeply for his community, environment and heritage. I’m sure I speak for both of us when I say that neither of us would moderate our views in order to assuage reader opinion.
      I believe the tribute is in the living, not the dead. We can celebrate and remember in a myriad of ways. Much better to tell a story than to rely on inanimate objects and pray for communion by osmosis.

      Best wishes


    • stymaster says:

      Hi David

      I think that the condemnation of vandalism is something we don’t even need to discuss. The lack of respect from some members of our community is something that troubles me greatly.

      I think the only personal comments made about Luke have been that he is a great showman- which he undoubtably is, seeing him at the opening ceremony. That’s not my kind of thing- but saying it is fact, not a slur upon him.

      I have read the works. All of them. I have photos taken during installation and at the ime of opening here.

      I took part in the consultation, and made my views clear: and lets get it straight: I’m not against public artwork. I’m against bad public artwork- and that doesn’t just mean ‘not to my taste’; it means poorly executed and poorly maintained, an in my opinion, a rather poor memorial to those it is supposed to represent. Walsall MBC have a rather poor record on such things (how about the rarely working Bloxwich fountain, or the one on The Bridge?), and I think it’s pretty certain no-one is about to come to invest in the area because of replica pit-head. Look at my picture of the man and whippet from the link above, and compare it to the one in my blog post. What really gets me annoyed though, is the attitude that we’ve been given the artwork, so that’s it. We’re regenerated, job done.

      As to anonymity, well, Bob has his reasons, as he’s stated. Personally, I use a pseudonym merely to place a slight distance between me posting stuff on the web and my other activities. It’s really, really trivial to find out my real name and what I look like if you poke about my website for a few minutes-this means that sometimes, I actually do moderate what I say online a little. People I know have recieved unwelcome attention for posting their views online (if you’ve been online for a few years you may remember “Ugly Walsall”) to the degree that they’ve withdrawn from things altogether.

  6. D.Evans says:

    HI Bob and Stymaster
    I have just read the Luke Perry link..Walsall Wood, written by Glen Buglass. I was not aware of this before and I thank you for this link. The photo is one I took . I saw the display of sketches in St Johns, and as Dolly and Arthur were too unwell to be taken to see these sketches, Luke offered to take them to their house. Hence the photo,one of several I took during Luke’s time with my friends who, after some initial hesitance, kindly agreed to being one of the silhouettes in the People statue ,
    Luke is a charming, kind person.. and a caring person. Other kind deeds of his will remain private, as I am sure you will understand, but as this photo has appeared in the public domain I thought you might like to understand the background.
    Sadly, Arthur passed away last summertime. He was born in, and lived his whole life, in Walsall Wood, I am pleased that he is remembered in the statue, as are those other local people who knew him.
    David Evans

    • Hi David.

      Whilst I’m sure Luke is a really charming guy, he’s a showman, and that’s his job. His company – and by extension he – got paid a huge amount for what are now, rusting, shabby artworks.

      Since nothing either any us say is going to lead to a change of position I suggest we leave it there.

      Best wishes


  7. D.Evans says:

    HI Bob

    Arthur, thePrims’ Trainer

    Arthur was the trainer for Walsall Wood Football Team in my childhood. Saturday was an important to see the Wood in action at Oak Park. To a young lad like myself the pitch seemed enormous, the heavy leather caseball seemed huge…and, my word it hurt you if you tried to head it.
    Arthur had a magic bucket and sponge and I often saw this in action. Frequently it was used whenever a player from the opposing side became ” a bit mouthy” as the home players commented to one another…about the ” poor qualities “and “inferior prowess” of the home team. This invariably resulted in that player oddly receiving a full force (well-aimed or accidental) shot of the caseball in my mother called them. Somehwere inside the shorts, I remember. As the player fell to the ground, writhing in agony, Arthur would rush to the victim’s aid…a kindly deed..and thrust a sponge filled with near freezing-point water down the shorts..and perform a circular , mystical , almost clutching movement with the hand holding this sponge..which made the player cry out….and bring even more tear to his eyes.
    But the magic cure was effective .
    The player would slowly regain his feet and would then contiue to play..noticably quieter.

    Arthur was a carpenter by trade, had been conscripted to work down the Coppy as a Bevin boy during the war and this gave him the “dust” which affected him for the rest of his life. In his final years her was unable to do very much . He received very good domicilliary palliative care, and excellent terminal care in hospital, where he died
    He was a kindly, generous the pitch at least!

    Richard Shepherd, our MP kindly helped arrange for Arthur to receive his Bevin Medal before he died

    Best wishes
    David Evans

  8. Rose Burnell says:

    Oh I agree I think they’re absolutely hideous. The group of people make me jump every time I see them as I think it’s a gang hanging around. As for the big one pictured above – I agree it faces the wrong way and looks covered in filthy rust. The whole collection of “sculptures” make the town look like the set of a horror/ghost film. YUCK.

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