Public art can be a wonderful thing. When done right, it can add refreshing beauty, or communicate something meaningful, such as the field of ceramic poppies in the moat of the Tower of London in 2014. When done wrong, it can uglify and desecrate an area, as anyone who has seen the grotesque “swirl of cream” in Trafalgar Square can attest to.
That is why we must be careful and considered when discussing new public art in our local communities. Public art needs to be tasteful, attractive, in keeping with the culture and heritage of the area and should not overwhelm or dominate.
In Collier Row, discussions are currently taking place about a scheme for the installation of eleven large murals. Many local people are expressing their strongly held views to me about the proposals.
Any new murals or public art placed in Collier Row must, I believe, meet with the support of local people and represent our community.
Too often, we have witnessed the erection of public art that is imposed on Romford, without public support, and which turn into public eyesores.
The “rocks” on Collier Row roundabout is one costly example. Then there were the copper pipe sculptures in Romford Market, which were eye wateringly expensive and after much public protest, were removed.
Not to mention the ugly “The Queue” statue opposite the bus stand in Western Road. I could go on.
The murals that were placed in parts of Romford a few years ago went up without popular consent. Some are widely disliked or looked on with bemusement.
Others, such as the wild animals around The Brewery Shopping Centre, are attractive and popular and were a positive addition to our town centre.
This time and in the future, we must always make sure that we get things right and that any new artwork is greeted with widespread support from people across Romford and, in this case, Collier Row in particular.
Public art should say something positive about our town, our local countryside, our history, our local people or to commemorate a great occasion. It should not simply be about whatever the artist may have their mind.
It is local people who will be looking at the work of art for years to come. It is therefore local people who must have the final say.
I commend the efforts of those who are working to bring this new project about and believe it has the potential to be a positive contribution to our community.
Collier Row would benefit from beautiful artwork, particularly in these dark times and I look forward to seeing the designs that are proposed, but they should only be installed if local people agree.
I have one idea of my own.
With the occasion of Her Majesty The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee now only one year away, there is surely no better time to commemorate the beauty and diversity of our United Kingdom and the extraordinary reign of Queen Elizabeth II.
Artwork to celebrate this historic moment in the history of our nation is something that I truly believe everyone in Collier Row and Romford would get behind!