The UK’s largest cast bronze sculpture took up permanent residence in Plymouth today after a show-stopping entrance by boat.
The public got their first glimpse of the gigantic, seven metre tall sculpture ‘Messenger’ as she was floated on a barge across Plymouth Sound at daybreak today.
Towed into Millbay Docks, the ten tonne figure was then craned onto the back of a lorry before being given a slow police escort through the city centre.
Hundreds lined the streets to watch the procession whilst workmen on building sites downed tools and office workers filmed from windows and doors as she passed by.
‘Messenger’ arrived at her final destination outside the Theatre Royal Plymouth shortly before midday before she was carefully craned into position outside the theatre’s main entrance.
Among those lining the streets to welcome ‘Messenger’ to the city was Carole Welsh, who lives on The Hoe. She said: “I think the sculpture is going to be a wonderful thing for Plymouth because she is dynamic, not of a particular person, but almost a spirit. Hopefully she’ll become the spirit of Plymouth. She’s certainly going to get noticed.”
Keith Bodkin, of Roborough added: “I think it is great. It’s going to look lovely outside the Theatre Royal. I have followed her right from the gates at Millbay Docks and will follow her until she’s installed. I think a lot of people will come and see her. Something like this is going to attract a lot of people to Plymouth.”
Adrian Vinken OBE, Chief Executive of Theatre Royal Plymouth, was on board a boat chartered for the press to film ‘Messenger’ as she made her entrance into Plymouth Sound earlier today.
He said: “When she appeared out near the breakwater everybody went silent. I think that says a lot, she has a real presence. You never really know, until something comes to reality, whether the vision for something is going to translate into reality, but I think in this case it has. When you experience her in the flesh and you see people’s reaction and the fact that they are clearly engaged, it’s all that we hoped for in this piece of art. Just look at her, she is beautiful. She will make an impact on the city and hopefully people will come to see her for many years to come because she is rather special.”
‘Messenger’ is made up of more than 200 individual panels and is the largest bronze sculpture created in the UK using the ancient process of lost-wax casting.
Her creator, Cornish born artist Joseph Hillier, said he felt ‘quite emotional’ as he watched her sail across Plymouth Sound. He added: “I’ve found it quite emotional to see her finally arrive in the city.”
He went on to say how he felt it was important in bringing ‘Messenger’ life that it was a sculpture of a woman, to counter the many male statues that dominate cities up and down the country.
“If you think about most statues in towns are of men standing motionless, but she is very dynamic and that was something that I wanted to capture.”
He added: “Her name Messenger refers to the pivotal role a performer takes to breathe life into the words of a writer and the intent of a director.”
‘Messenger’ was funded with cash raised as part a £7.5 million theatre regeneration project. She will be officially unveiled to the public on Friday, March 22.