‘Golden’ – at 21 (69ft) metres tall, one of the tallest sculptures in the country and costing some £130,000 of Section 106 monies – is set to dominate the North Staffordshire skyline, replacing the Potteries Pyramid, which will be moved to the nearby Chatterley Road roundabout when Golden is officially unveiled.
The city authority writes:
Designed by award-winning artist Wolfgang Buttress, it has been unveiled on the old Goldendale ironworks site, in Chatterley Valley. Locals for many years referred to the ironworks as ‘the flame that never dies’ due to the amber glow that would be coming from the factory, and the sculpture aims to recreate that sense of atmosphere.
Made from corten steels which links to the steel previously manufactured in the area, Golden features 1,500 hand blown glass prisms attached to the column of the artwork. Each one contains a memory or wish written on handmade paper by hundreds of people in the local community. The sculpture includes powerful LED lights which will shine at night to symbolise the flame and act as a prism during the day to reflect sunlight around the piece.
Paul Bailey, the council’s culture and events manager, said the sculpture reflects the history and environment of the area. He said: ‘The community has been heavily involved with this project from the start and that has been really important because the sculpture is all about telling the story of the history of the area. A lot of people will still remember when the steelworks were here, know people who worked there and still picture how it was lit up at night because of the flames.
‘Visually and contextually, Golden holds strong cultural significance as well as being used to engage and unite the local community. We want it to provoke fond memories of the area but also act as a landmark for hope and a bright future across the city.’
The sculpture – one metre taller than the Angel of the North in Gateshead – has been funded using £130,000 of Section 106 monies through planning agreements secured, following developments in Chatterley Valley. The money was ring-fenced, meaning that it could only be used on new public art or maintaining existing public art in the area. The landscape surrounding the sculpture will also be completely transformed with new benches, paths and access gates due to be fitted.
Megan Ryan, chairman of Nash Peake Street Residents’ Association, has been involved with the project since the beginning.
She said: ‘There has been a lot of excitement about the sculpture arriving and when I saw it on site, it almost brought a tear to my eye. Once all of the landscaping work is complete, it will be an area where people of all ages can come and relax, have a picnic and enjoy the stunning views for miles around.’
Each prism is held out from the main body of the sculpture by a short stalk, giving the artwork a bristly appearance. Local arts group Letting In The Light were commissioned by artist Wolfgang to collect the wishes and memories, and although people won’t be able to see the actual messages, the not-for-profit organisation plans to publish them online and in an accompanying book to be released shortly.
Sarah Bonam, project and community development officer for Letting In The Light, said: ‘We worked in lots of places across the community from the market to schools and supermarkets to get people’s memories and wishes for the future, which have been incorporated into the sculpture. It’s been a great project to be involved with and one which has really engaged with the local community.’
On a previous site visit the Wolfgang found a piece of iron from the old works which has a remarkable resemblance to a human heart. This will be suspended in the interior of the artwork to represent the beating heart of the community.
Speaking after the installation, Wolfgang said: ‘I’m really happy that Golden has been installed. It’s been a lovely journey working with some amazing and supportive local people which has made the whole process worthwhile. I’m looking forward to seeing Golden illuminated and the space opened up for the enjoyment of local residents and visitors alike.’
Golden will take pride of place in the Stoke-on-Trent sculpture trial, which features a collection of 40 important, imaginative and fascinating public art sculptures, each with a unique story to tell. An officially opening and switching-on ceremony for Golden will be held in the summer at a date yet to be decided.
It will replace the Potteries Pyramid – which will be moved to the nearby Chatterley Road roundabout when Golden is officially unveiled.