Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Eric Morecambe statue - opportunity in adversity?

Public Meeting at the Midland with presenters from The Bay radio (standing)
Danny Mathews and Nick Margerrison. On the panel were Coun Ron Sands,
LLC Chief Officer for the Environment Mark Davies,
sculptor Graham Ibbeson and his associate Jim Cadman.

Public interest over the recent damage to Morecambe's Eric Morecambe Statue may pave the way for fundraising for a further artwork by the same sculptor

Everyone local who is awake will know that the popular artwork was removed for its own safety by the City Council following an attempt to hacksaw through its leg. Many people posted online that they would happily contribute money towards its repair.

The public were reassured by the city council's early intervention to preserve the sculpture and its subsequent assurances that the council has its repair in hand and intends its restoration at the earliest opportunity.

Nevertheless last Wednesday The Bay radio station hosted a public meeting to discuss the future of the Eric Morecambe statue. Following a spirited rendition of 'Bring Me Sunshine' by the Morecambe Brass Band, Councillor Ron Sands again assured the meeting that the costs of restoring the statue will be borne by Lancaster City Council and its insurers, and that it was the council's intention to restore the statue asap.

Sculptor proposes new commission
About three dozen people attended the meeting, including the Morecambe Carnival team and representatives of the Winter Gardens and the Globe Arena. The very talented Graham Ibbeson, who sculpted the Eric statue, was on the panel along with his long time business associate Jim Cadman. They unveiled their new proposals for a life size bronze wall relief of Eric and Ernie to be sited on Morecambe promenade.

Mr Ibbeson has already started work on a design for the ‘Morecambe and Wise’ wall art.  He said it could be located on the Promenade opposite the Winter Gardens. The proposed artwork would be around the size of a door and would depict both Eric and Ernie performing together. It would be separate from the original statue but would add to the promenade and 'create a heritage trail between the Winter Gardens and the Eric Morecambe statue'.

Sculpture Trail
Graham Ibbeson and Jim Cadman have worked together in setting up a number of similar commissions including the West Bromwich Celebration 1979 statue, the Don Revie statue at Elland Road, the Arthur Wharton statue in Rotherham, the Fred Truman statue in Skipton, the Les Dawson statue in St Annes, the Arthur Aaron VC statue in Leeds and the 'Dickie' Bird statue in Barnsley. You can view their 'Sculpture Trail' at http://www.grahamibbeson.com/

Ibbeson's most famous, and earlier, work is, of course, our own Eric Morecambe statue, which was unveiled by the Queen in 1999. It shares with his 'Dickie' Bird statue in Barnsley the 'distinction' of having been taken down - but not for the same reason! While Eric had his leg hacksawed by an unfortunate person who appears to have been suffering from a mental illness, the statue of cricket umpire 'Dickie' Bird really was removed because of pranksters. His famous upwards-pointing finger gesture became a hanger for everything from prophylactics and knickers to advertising. Eventually, last autumn, Barnsley Council decided to remove it and restore it with its plinth raised by 5 feet to make that finger a bit more challenging for the late night revellers to get at.   Philistines.

Volunteer project manager
Back at the meeting Jim Cadman explained:
“The galvanising effect that the attack on the statue has had, not only in the local community, but nationwide, has been truly inspirational.

“There seems to be a great willingness to use this as a springboard for a way of further celebrating Eric’s memory and the joy he brought to his millions of fans and supporters throughout the world’

“I will be pleased to manage and lead the project but we want to involve the local community at all levels because it’s only through their enthusiasm and support that we can achieve a lasting legacy for Morecambe’s favourite son.”

Eric Morecambe Day
Jim Cadman also suggested that a special 'Eric Morecambe Day' could be held annually on the anniversary of the statue's original unveiling on 26 July. A celebrity-packed event such as a showbusiness dinner was mooted, among other suggestions, such as a friendly footie match between Morecambe and Luton (Eric was a Luton supporter).  A suggestion that Blackpool might the place for a big event due to the shortage of large venues in Morecambe brought a ready response that the Globe Arena would be able to host such an event. Cllr Evelyn Archer noted that the Winter Gardens already hosts the annual Morecambe & Wise Convention in the same month and the events could be linked.

Labour's Parliamentary Candidate for Morecambe and Lunesdale, Amina Lone, expressed a need to engage younger generations in the proposed Eric Morecambe Day Celebration. It is 30 years last May since the popular comedian died and younger people might not be aware of Eric’s contribution to the town. Jim Cadman enthusiastically voiced support for this idea, saying that children could be engaged to produce commemorative artwork for the event.

Eric's son Gary Morecambe was later pleased to endorse the proposals and said:
“In a word these plans are fantastic. In two words: 'Really fantastic!' - And my mother wants to come up to Morecambe for the second unveiling.

“We all love the idea of an Eric Morecambe Day and the family will always make sure one or more of us is there to celebrate these Days with the people of Morecambe.”

Fundraising
Jim Cadman announced that a number of additional events aimed at raising funds for the new artwork by Graham Ibbeson will be announced in the coming weeks and these will include a Gala Dinner, a Variety Show, a Celebrity Auction, an Eric Morecambe Tribute Magazine plus a range of local community activities.

Further information can be obtained from Mr Cadman by emailing  jwc@ericmorecambestatue.org.

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