As predicted when I posted, the Express & Star seemed to have trouble locating Walsall Wood, despite my directions. In fact, they seemed to have trouble finding their arse with both hands. Yet again, a reporter was despatched who either didn’t know, didn’t listen or plain just couldn’t be bothered. The report presented today about the golden boot replacing Bob the fish on the Walsall Wood angler is a travesty, and an utter misrepresentation of the facts. It also say much about the sculpture itself.
The report reads as follows:
A fish has been taken from a sculpture of an angler next to a canal and replaced with a golden wellington boot.
It is the second time the fish has gone missing from the public artwork, off High Street in Walsall Wood.
The structure was intended as a nod to a popular fisherman as part of an art trail involving 25 similar models which were put up on the green, opposite Brooklands Road. They were part of a £40,000 public art project which was funded by Walsall Council and carried out by Cradley-Heath-born artist Luke Perry’s firm, Industrial Heritage Stronghold.
Darren Smith, director of Comfort Beds in Lichfield Road, said: “When I noticed it I just laughed to myself. The fish has gone missing before but it’s never been replaced by a wellington boot.”
Staff from other nearby businesses were not so amused. Steve Partridge, owner of Autumn Leaves Furniture in Walsall Road, said: “I don’t think it’s funny at all. It’s a shame when people vandalise things. It must be kids. I don’t think an adult would do that.”
Jamie McMahon, manager of Affordable Signs in High Street, added: “I think it looks tacky. The statue is just a waste of taxpayers’ money anyway. It looks a mess.”
The copper fish first vanished just days after the statue was unveiled in February 2010, prompting fears it had been stolen. It was thought it had been vandalised but it came to light that community spirited pensioner Barbara Grant, of Beechtree Road, picked up the copper shape on the canal towpath after one of her neighbours told her it had fallen from the silhouette. She said she quickly took it to prevent metal thieves stealing it.
Walsall Council leader Mike Bird added: “I’m afraid it’s a sad tail but with the budget coming up, we have bigger fish to fry. Hopefully we’ll catch the individual shortly.”
In the printed edition, this load of revisionist, inaccurate horse ordure is credited to Lisa O’Brien, who clearly didn’t trouble herself with any tiresome research, or even a cursory look into her own paper’s archives. Had she done so, she’d have discovered that the fish did indeed go missing twice – once it dropped, or was ‘helped’ off due to the lousy construction method involved, to be found by a public spirited local and returned. The second time, way back in January 2011, it clearly fell because the steel rope used to attach the copper carp had frayed through metal fatigue, a fact I realised after see ing the damage. Some passing trophy hunter probably recovered it and who knows where it ended up. The council forgot about the whole affair and never replaced Bob, a fact I pointed out several times.
I shouldn’t be surprised at any of this. The Express & Star no longer seems to value local news, and clearly works to its own right wing, pro-government agenda, into which the fictitious tale of nasty kids nicking the fish and cruelly replacing it with a welly fits quite well. What actually happened here was something far more engaging and shocking. Fed up with looking at the rusting, broken artwork the authorities gave us and then gave up on, some local wags – there must be more than one, you can’t do that alone, really – decided to improve it. They spoke for the people of the Wood. The gold welly appeared mysteriously and was the talk of the village. People agreed unanimously that it was fun, witty and just plain clever.
However, what the report shows more clearly, is that two years after installation, most people don’t even look at the local sculpture. It’s become a fixture. Why else would Steve Partridge think the fish had actually been nicked? Had he looked over the road at all in the last twelve months? Like Mike ‘Reality Gap’ Bird, wheeled out for comic value, there seems to be a certain detachment from the reality of the situation. The pithead continues to rust. The steel figures look tattier by the day, their milled text becoming almost impossible to read. The fisherman looks unfinished, and it too, rusts gently, looking more like the remnants of some old canalside crane than an expensive artwork. Meanwhile, the council appear to have washed their hands, and the artist disappears into the sunset, presumably still giggling into his top hat at the 40 grand he received for a pile of laser cut blanks and intellectual old rope.
Fortunately, the spirit of Walsall Wood isn’t found in junk sculpture or the local rag. It’s found in the simple wit of a wellington boot sprayed gold and hung up when nobody was looking, making a whole community smile. Like the Stymaster, who is equally bemused, whoever you are, I’d happily by your beer all evening.