Southgate loses landmark

mark foster
Installing the statue outside City of Bath College. Click on images to enlarge.

So the double-life-sized torso of Olympic swimmer Mark Foster – which was installed at the entrance to the Southgate shopping centre – has been moved to its new – and less prominent position – outside the City of Bath College.

mark foster
Not exactly public is it? The wall is a barrier.

Ben Dearnley – the artist who carved this giant Bath-stone plinth-based statue of  this locally-trained sportsman – had hoped it would stay in its original open and sunlit public space but – it seems – the temporary planning permission for it to be there had run out.

B&NES reassured everyone concerned that the torso would still be ‘highly visible’ in its new James Street West location.

I think you will agree it is NOT! Shame that temporary planning permission could not have been made permanent. Not everyone – of course – thought the torso a thing of beauty. Some are glad to see the back of it – and well rid of the front too – but it was a focal point for everyone shopping down there who could say to friends and family .. ‘meet me by the statue!’

Even the buskers preferred to play in its shadow. It was a welcoming and humanising way of greeting people going to Southgate.

Empty space at Southgate created by statue being moved away.
Empty space at Southgate created by statue being moved away.

The complex is clean and tidy and covered in Bath stone but – apart from a couple of trees – is empty, desolate and barren.

We want more public art not less! These bare avenues and empty courtyard spaces need points of interest other than just a name over a shop door.

Here is a prime location for a fountain or even an empty plinth that – like the one in London’s Trafalgar Square – could be used to exhibit temporary art.

The people of Bath, and its visitors, deserve something better.

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