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Lights go out on Swindon town centre art
EVER since it was put up 16 years ago it has lit up a corner of Swindon town centre like a giant, psychedelic lollipop.
But now the plug has reluctantly been pulled on one of the town’s most popular works of public art, Swindon’s very own North Pole.
Like some towering electronic lamppost the structure reacted to natural light and its many plastic globes glowed in different colours when darkness descended.
It was also one of the largest pieces of public art ever put up in Swindon.
But, having been battered by the elements, it first stopped working and then became unsafe.
As a potential hazard to the pubic Swindon Council said it had no option but to remove the landmark Farnsby Street structure a few weeks ago.
Council spokesman Richard Freeman said: “We have a good record in Swindon in commissioning public art and will repair and retain it when we can.”
He said they did this when the Millennium Clock – unveiled by the Duke of Edinburgh at the junction Canal Walk, The Parade, Bridge Street and Regent Street in 2000 – broke down a few years later.
It was refurbished and has recently been installed on Swindon railway station forecourt.
A similar operation was undertaken with the 17ft Great Blondinis statue – depicting two acrobats - which for 15 years stood at Wharf Green in the town centre before it was removed when the area was refurbished.
Fashioned with from cast off aluminium from the defunct Swindon railway works, the work was renovated and re-housed at St Mark’s recreation ground, Gorse Hill.
However, the council has been unable to pull-off a similar revamp with the more complex North Pole.
Richard said: “Unfortunately this particular piece had deteriorated badly during its 16-year exposure to the elements.
“The base was severely corroded, and the plastic globes had become so weak with continued exposure to sunlight that most of them crumbled and fell apart when they were moved.
“The whole thing hadn’t worked for some time and was beyond economic repair.
“We never like to scrap any public art but in this case we had to reluctantly conclude that it was beyond saving.”
The “electronic lighting work” was unveiled in 1997 to mark the completion of the multi-storey Brunel North car park.
Officially entitled Brunel North Pole it was designed by specialist sculptor Tom Dixon in what was described as “creative collaboration” with borough engineers.
It was the latest in an ongoing series of public works of art which had sprung up in and around Swindon as a result of the council’s per cent for art policy.
In 1988 the authority – then known as Thamesdown Council – became one of the first in the country to adopt the policy whereby developers funded a piece of public art once they have completed their scheme.
The initiative has seen a string of works – ranging from sculptures and mosaics to seating and paving to stained glass windows – appear in Swindon over the past 25 years.
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