The Sculpture ‘Marmite’ Question:

What do you love?

skylon festival of britain
Skylon at the Festival of Britain 1951, photo: (c) Historic England

What do you hate?

adrian jones, george, duke of cambridge
Adrian Jones, George, Duke of Cambridge, bronze, Whitehall, London SW1, photo:

The Sculptor William Mitchell replies:

The Skylon designed by Hidalgo Moya, Philip Powell and Felix Samuely for the Festival of Britain exhibition 1951 has always been my favourite piece of sculpture. It symbolized all the hopes and dreams of the nation in its long slender form reaching far up into the sky pointing towards new worlds and a brand new future. That’s where we were going. Or we thought we were. At the time London had not completely recovered from the war – many areas were still in ruins and redevelopment was badly needed. The Festival gave Britons a feeling that their lives were about to change and they came to London from far and wide to join in with the exciting festivities. But after the exhibition finished they knocked the Skylon down. What a shame! People still remember it. The outline remains, clear in the mind 60 odd years later.

I hate plinths! Most of all plinths! Platforms to put the sculpture, figure or abstract out of reach so it can’t be touched and raise it above, to make it more important than you and me. It’s the strange figures on horseback that litter our streets that really annoy me. Who are they? Many years ago when the figures were produced we used to walk more so it was easy to stand close enough to read who was sitting on the horse. Now passing at 40mph there is no chance. Should we leave them where they are and ignore them? Or should we move them all into a park and stand them in rows like Egyptian sphinxes? Or what about placing them at intervals at the side of motorways?