On a speed walk through Sunderland to collect my freshly repaired car I encountered a couple of new artworks that have been installed as part of a redevelopment near the site of the Magistrates’ Court.
Now I have been disparaging about the local authority’s attempts at public art her before, the pier gates that began to rust, the utter failure of Ambit, the bridge sculpture that became a graffiti encrusted climbing frame etc.
I approached the new works with some scepticism. The first left me unmoved; The Keel Line is a nice idea, setting out a darkened strip that measures out the longest ship ever built in the city and inscribed with the names of thousands of individual vessels that were built here on the Wear. Shame it lacks originality; I was immediately reminded of the QE2 Mile in Southampton and a similar though much smaller line tracing in Durham City.
The second work, placed at one end of the line and entitled Propellers of the City is more interesting, though my first thought on approaching the 3m diameter, rotating glass disc (glass-making being another traditional industry here) was
“How long before that gets broken, scratched, painted or otherwise vandalised?”
On close inspection you see that the circle is spotted with photographs; images of former residents who played a part in the city’s development as one of the world’s greatest ship-builders. This struck me as a shrewd move. Perhaps by linking the sculpture to the families who populate the city, they create an inherent interest in its protection. Time will tell, but for now it seems there is a chance that Sunderland Council have finally got it right.