I’ve spent some time reflecting on Cllr Tony Ball’s statement that he made regarding “Progression” (see my earlier post “Progression” and “The Woodsman”: A Tale of Two Sculptures):
“We are not against the art – but the cash should be from private sponsorship.”
I realised I didn’t know anything regarding the financial provenance of “The Woodsman” and whether or not Basildon Council had commissioned it, assisted with transportation costs, paid for its installation etc. I decided to email Vin Harrop, heritage director of Our Basildon, and ask that question. His response was fascinating:
“Dave Chapple on behalf of the then Basildon Arts and Design Initiative (BADI) gifted the finished work to the people of Basildon. It took him 5 months to complete, working for nothing from June 1995. He was 63 years old at the time and wanted to work on that scale before he got too old. Dave spent three days a week and never missed a day, each day he was surrounded by scores of people inquisitive to know what he was doing, if he had cut down the tree and how much it was costing. Dave always replied “not one penny”. People were visiting Dave on a regular basis offering gifts in particular food, so you can see he built up quite a rapport with all those using St Martin’s Square. This is why we use the term ‘People’s Artist’, for he was a man of the people (born in Vange) who created his art for the people of Basildon.
Basildon Council gave permission to install scaffolding in front of the Basildon Centre and covered the hire of a lorry to transport the fallen tree from Langdon Hills, and Dave’s public liability- about £300 in total. The scaffolding was provided as part of a sponsorship deal- other funds were sought but they (BADI) were unsuccessful.”
So here we have it. Unlike “Progression”, which was paid for from public funds, “The Woodsman” cost nothing except the £300 for transport and liability insurance. I have since been told that BADI may have actually raised that £300 also.
It would seem that even when a work is sponsored from private funds, the Conservative administration is not interested in maintaining “the art”. I don’t know if that makes Cllr Ball “against the art” – it does, however, leave a bad taste in the mouth to see the landmark carving of a local artist mouldering on its side in Wat Tyler (I understand it now has a tarpaulin over it).
“Hardcore Carvers” are a group of independent artists and entertainers who specialise in making large wooden carvings (often with chainsaws). They treat their external oak sculptures yearly with teak oil.
B&Q’s cheapest teak oil is currently £5.16 a litre.
The Sporting Village is costing £38 million.
It makes you think about the balance of priorities.