Quite a few times recently we've driven by this amazing sculpture which is just off a roundabout in the city centre and at the back of the Potteries Shopping Centre. Today, having parked in the centre itself, we decided to walk up and take a look even though it was raining quite heavily. There are quite a few of these community art installations around the city but this one, for me, stands out from the others because it has a fluidity and delicacy about it. It somehow looks right, whereas some of the others are heavy and too solid in their surroundings.
It stands in the new plaza entrance to Central Forest Park which was created, in the early 1970s, on the site of the old spoil heaps of Hanley deep pit, which had closed in 1967. The sculpture, designed by Denis O'Connor and called "Tree Stories' is 21ft high and is surrounded on one side by an arc of 26ft multi-coloured lights. Inspiration for the tree came, according to the local paper, from work done by school children from two local schools who created motifs of things that symbolise what the park means to them.
As you can imagine there are many points of view about this and the other installations. Again going by letters and comments in the local papers there are three strong themes coming through. Firstly, there are those who like it, who feel that this sort of thing is needed to help in the promotion and regeneration of the city and to help residents take a pride in their city. The sculpture is part of the Greening for Growth project and has been paid for by Advantage West Midlands and the European Regional Development Fund. The second view, held by quite a lot of folks, is that the sculpture is a waste of money and that the city council should spend tax payer's money elsewhere on things like health care, care homes and cemeteries. Of course, all these services are funded from different pots of money which can't be moved around between differing needs; the sculpture wasn't paid for out of our Council Tax.
Many people objected because real trees had been taken down and replaced by a metal tree, but according to council representatives the trees that were there were overgrown and the area unsafe as it was ill lit - now it is open, visible and well lit, therefore safer for people walking into and out of the park. They have also planted new trees, the same in number as those lost. Residents in flats opposite it were opposed to it for two reasons; they felt that youths would congregate around the tree and use the flat area for skate boards, even though there is a proper boarding area in Central Forest Park. The other issue was with the lights and the fact that they shone into peoples' bedrooms at night time - I can quite see that this might be a problem.
So, all in all, another controversial sculpture to think about. I have to say that I like it and intend one day soon to go back and look at it when it is illuminated - I expect it will look stunning.