with UK artist, Andrew McKeown.
Part of the renovation of the North Marine Park in South Shields is a new sculpture placed on the Lawe Top. The artist, Andrew McKeown, specialises in Public Sculpture and has completed many large scale commissions throughout the UK and Internationally. In an earlier interview on the blog in June, Andrew talked about his work…..I am working on designs for a large contemporary steel Beacon in the North Marine Park. The Beacon takes it’s inspiration from the Lawe Top Beacons built in 1832.
The installation of his new work was on the morning of 31st October 2020, and I managed to grab a few words with Andrew….Today I’m supervising the installation of the new Beacon sculpture. The blacksmiths are just fixing the bolts down now, it’s pretty much all installed.
Has it been a hectic day ? Yeah just a bit (laughs). We started at 9am, the blacksmith got loaded up earlier than expected but we got up here and got on with it.
What does it feel like seeing your work finally put in place ? Fantastic. I’ve been working on this project since January after getting the commission. It was applying first, then getting selected then there was all the planning to do with the designs. The brief asked for it to be between 4-6 metres high. I went for 6 metres and that feels about right. The original Victorian Beacons were a lot taller than that so I know it’s not meant to be a navigational aid as such, it’s a decorative piece with a nod and a wink towards the Victorian Beacons.
I think when the block paving is around, the lighting added and when it’s rusted after about 3-4 weeks it’ll develop a stronger rusty colour. It’s core ten steel and rusts so much it’s almost like a protective layer. It’s the same steel as the Angel of the North (sculpture in Gateshead by Antony Gormley). It’s just nice to finally be the day when it all comes together and it looks like what I wanted it to look like.
What is the idea behind the words that are on the sculpture ? Yeah well it’s already happened hasn’t it. This morning within half an hour of it going up a Grandad and his Grandson walked past and the Grandson asked what is a Foyboatman? The Grandad explained and then added that his Dad was a riveter. That’s what type of conversations I really intended from the piece to happen. It keeps the sculpture alive and all those historical trades and occupations alive.
It refers to the community of South Shields and the words at the top refer to the character of the area, the history and the aspirations. Words like exploration, wisdom, work, toil and adventure, words that make people think that yeah we have got this background as well as the shipping industry that pioneered the way for a lot of things
Can you see it being here for a long time ? The way it has been made and the materials it has been made with, it can be there for years until someone wants to move it. Maybe in a renovation of North Marine Park in another 100 years, but I’ll be long gone by then.
Interview by Gary Alikivi October 2020.