One year in…
Archiving public art in Cleveland and (a bit) beyond
Photo: Middlesbrough Library
by Daniel Cochran on November 23rd 2022
After 9 months of frantic blogging on our website, I thought it would be a good idea to finally write a newsletter to our email followers. You’re getting this because you subscribed to our North East Statues newsletter at some point over the last year.
Ever since I tried to find out about Graham Ibbeson’s ‘Shopper & Child’ (which I half remembered from my Saturdays in Middlesbrough town centre) and came up blank on an internet search, I’ve been collecting and documenting public art in the North East.
In that time I’ve worked with Tees Valley Arts, Mima School of Art, Teesside Archives and others (with a special shoutout to the extremely helpful Tony Duggan and Helen Crute) to interview as many artists as we can and preserve their thoughts, designs, sketches and images of their artworks in a publicly accessible place.
Since then this solo project has become a bit of a wee collective: welcoming Teesside Archives Collections Assistant (and resident folklore buff) Grace Redpath and – just this week – freelance researcher, writer, and amateur photographer Karis Richardson to the writing team. We’ve started our website and created over 80 articles, interviewing about 60 artists in the process, and even finding a few missing artworks. Here are our highlights of 2022.
Photo by Nick Wesson
Bizarrely, our most popular post this year was the infamous Skinningrove Doll Garden – a sadly-lost piece of outsider art hidden on the coast. A couple in the town had spent years buying up dolls and putting them on poles in their garden, before eventually being thwarted by the council. We put a shout-out on our Twitter account for images of this and – as usual – our community didn’t disappoint.
Photo courtesy of John Cooke
One of my favourite stories of the year was the return of a spurned statue in a story dating all the way back to the 1950s. Eddie Hawking’s sculpture of his then-pregnant wife Audrey returns to North Tees Hospital soon after being initially removed in 1974. This is a lovely little tale of a wrong being righted. Better late than never.
Photo by Grace Redpath
One of Grace’s best pieces of the year was her exploration of two totem poles at Stewart Park. This article discusses the symbolism and cultural context of the poles, and how works by First Nations carvers appeared in North East England.
Photo courtesy of Teesside Archives – Photo reference: CC-N-C4162-1
Karis and I took a deep-dive into one of Middlesbrough’s best-loved (at least, amongst those in the know) icons. Teessaurus has been an emblem of both renewal and decay, but endures throughout the town’s changes. Now if only we knew who sculptor Genevieve Glatt was…
Forty Years in a Moorland Parish
Photo courtesy of Ryedale Folk Museum
As well as working on North East Statues, Grace is also in charge of Forty Years in a Moorland Parish: an investigation into North Yorkshire’s folklore and customs that have fallen victim to cultural amnesia. Sword dancing! Corn dollies! Morris dancing! Go and give her a follow on her Instagram.
Photo by Grace Redpath
While some might think it’s a stretch to call monoliths public art, we’re going to invoke the “why not?” rule on this one. Our furthest journey into the past this year came when Grace (Stone Club Member #145) found out all about the Noth Ing Bride Stones at Commondale (nothing to do with marriage – the term is said to derive from the old English word ‘briddes’ for birds, suggesting that the stones resemble birds). Neolithic sites like this remind us that public art existed long before local councils and lottery funding.
Photo provided by Mandy Durham
Last but very much not least is perhaps the unluckiest gorilla in Teesside: Peter Mountain’s Gorilla Alcove had a torrid time of it. Theft, vandalism, and even a scatalogical interlude were all part of this tale. Thankfully there’s somewhat of a happy ending.
So those are our favourites this year, but we have a ton more in the pipeline for 2023. We’re working with Teesside Archives to digitise some important material. Hopefully we’ll soon be covering the unveiling of Eddie Hawking’s aforementioned sculpture at North Tees Hospital too.
Once again, we’re all about collaboration here at North East Statues. If you have any information, questions or materials, please get in touch on our Ask Us page.
Have a wonderful new year,
All the best,
Daniel & Grace