Thursday 22nd December 2016

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Fourth Plinth: David Shrigley’s giant thumbs up ‘Really Good’ unveiled in London’s Trafalgar Square
The 11th Fourth Plinth artwork has been unveiled in London’s Trafalgar Square by mayor Sadiq Khan.

Macclesfield-born artist David Shrigley’s “Really Good” is a 7m-high elongated thumbs-up, described as the “tallest and most positive yet” and made in bronze to match the historical sculptures in the square.

Mr Shrigley, 48, was nominated for the Turner Prize in 2013 and is acclaimed for his bold and opinionated drawings, animations and sculptures that explore the absurdity of 21st-century society. He currently lives and works in Brighton.

“I guess this is a work about making the world a better place or it purports to actually make the world a better place,” he said at the event on Thursday morning. “Obviously, this is a ridiculous proposition, but I think it’s a good proposition. Artworks on their own are inanimate objects so they can’t make the world a better place. It is us, so I guess we have to ask ourselves how we can do this.”

David Shrigley has shrugged off the disappointment of missing out on the Turner Prize, as his giant “thumbs up” sculpture was named as a winning entry for one of the prize art commissions in London. The comic artist’s 10 foot bronze sculpture of a thumb, called “Really Good”, was the second of two winning commissions for the Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square.

Shrigley’s work, which will be put up in 2016, was the popular choice for the site among the more than 40,000 members of the public who visited the shortlist exhibition many of whom submitted their views to the selection committee.

This comes two months after he missed out on the Turner Prize to Laure Prouvost. “I wasn’t that disappointed not to win the Turner Prize as I didn’t expect to win,” he said. “But I did really want to win this. It definitely makes up for the Turner.”

The artist said he was “chuffed” that he won, adding: “It’s an opportunity to make something. Unlike winning a prize – or not – you’re not just given the money, you’re given the opportunity to make something on a scale that you couldn’t possibly imagine yourself.” The positive gesture made by the sculpture could be a “self-fulfilling prophesy” with the economy, weather and society all benefitting from a positive attitude, Shrigley said.

He continued: “As an artist you have to believe your art makes the world a better place. Having said that, I’ve made a statement with this work that is quite flip. It’s satirical and sincere at the same time.”

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The Beano Annual is the current name of the book that has been published every year since 1939, to tie in with the children’s comic The Beano. As of 2016 there have been 78 editions. The annuals are traditionally published in July or August, in time for Christmas, and since 1965 they have had the date of the following year on the cover. Before then no date was given.

From 1942 to 1949 the annual was called “The Magic-Beano Book”, which referred to the short-lived Magic Comic that had ceased publication in 1941 due to the Second World War’s paper rationing. The name reverted to the original title of “The Beano Book” in 1950 and continued, the year changing for each subsequent annual, until the release of the 2003 book in 2002 when it was renamed “The Beano Annual”. The 2011 Beano Annual is taller and wider than previous annuals.

After paper rationing had ended, The Magic Comic was never revived, but some of the characters who had originally appeared in the pre-war Magic Comic remained as regular strips in the post-1950 Beano Comic (such as Koko the Pup).

Because of his popularity, Dennis the Menace has appeared on the front cover of every annual since the release of the 1979 book in 1978.

Beano office at 185 Fleet Street, London, United Kingdom, EC4A 2HS

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Cornhill is a road in the heart of the City of London, known for its bustling offices and designer boutiques. Located a stone’s throw from the Bank of England, the name Cornhill comes from it being one of the city’s three hills Tower Hill and Ludgate Hill.

In a world before cars, travelling around on a horse and carriage was the way to get around. Just like today the city is dotted with petrol stations to refuel, in Georgian and Victorian times there were wells, troughs and water pumps to water the horses and refresh the people. With an extensive underground sewer network and piped water supply, thankfully these days we don’t need to grab a bucket and head to the nearest pump for some water.

While demand for public wells has ceased over the past 100 years, the staggering history and aesthetics of the City’s old street furniture means many of these pumps can still be seen today. Earlier this autumn, one such pump caught my eye. Located outside the Gucci store in the Royal Exchange, it looks very different to other stone and black ones I’ve seen on the streets. Painted in the City of London’s light blue colour, just like the Old Police Telephone posts, it stands out amongst the bins, post boxes and street lighting. While to some, it looks like a tired piece of old London, the pump actually has a significant tie to the history of London and distances from the old capital. A minute’s walk up to the junction of Cornhill and Leadenhall Street is the location of ‘The Standard’ – the first mechanically-pumped water supply in London. As well as being a source for water, the pump became a meeting place and also the mark from which distances from London were judged (until the marker later became Charing Cross – see Civil war, centre of London and a memorial to a queen: The story behind Charing Cross).

Although The Standard pump was discontinued in 1603, back down the hill outside Gucci (of course it wasn’t Gucci then!), the current pump was erected nearly 200 years later. Two of the City’s big players of the time, the East India Company and the Bank of England, together with the local fire stations and local bankers and traders who worked in the area, jointly funded the cast iron pump with an adjoining granite trough.

Designed by architect Nathaniel Wright (who built St Botolph Aldersgate in Postman’s Park), the inscription on the road-facing side, it reads: ‘On this spot a well was first made and a House of Correction built thereon by Henry Wallis Mayor of London in the year 1282.’ It continues on the Royal Exchange-facing side: ‘The well was discovered much enlarged and this pump erected in the year 1799 by the contributions of the Bank of England, the East India Company, the neighbouring fire offices, together with the bankers and traders of the Ward of Cornhill.’ As well as the inscriptions, the Grade II-listed pump has fire insurance emblems on each side – Royal Exchange, Sun, Phoenix and County.

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The City of London is not renowned for its abundance of trees, but right in the heart of the City, just a stones throw from St Paul’s cathedral on the corner of Cheapside and Wood Street is a reasonably resplendent Plane tree, threatening to usurp the row of tiny shops beneath it.
It feels almost like the tiny little square was made specifically for the tree, but in fact, it was previously the site of a medieval church, St Peter Cheap, which was one of the 87 churches that burnt down during the Great Fire of London, 1666. However, it was also not one of the 51 rebuilt after the fire by Christopher Wren. Cheapside incidentally, is a medieval word for market, hence why a number of the streets leading off it, relate to produce that would have been bought and sold in the area; Bread Street, Milk Street and Poultry … for instance.

The area where the Plane tree stands, was instead preserved as a tiny grave yard and public space and that very same tree features in a poem by William Wordsworth, called ‘The Reverie of Poor Susan’, inspired (allegedly) after hearing a thrush singing in its branches. If you happen to pass by, the verse in question has been handily painted on to a board for your perusal.

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The poem records the memories awakened in a country girl in London on hearing a thrush sing in the early morning.

Poor Susan

William Wordsworth 1797

At the corner of Wood-Street, when day-light appears,
There’s a Thrush that sings loud, it has sung for three years.
Poor Susan has pass’d by the spot and has heard
In the silence of morning the song of the bird.

‘Tis a note of enchantment; what ails her? She sees
A mountain ascending, a vision of trees;
Bright volumes of vapour through Lothbury glide,
And a river flows on through the vale of Cheapside.

Green pastures she views in the midst of the dale,
Down which she so often has tripp’d with her pail,
And a single small cottage, a nest like a dove’s,
The only one dwelling on earth that she loves.

She looks, and her heart is in Heaven, but they fade,
The mist and the river, the hill and the shade;
The stream will not flow, and the hill will not rise,
And the colours have all pass’d away from her eyes.

Poor Outcast! return—to receive thee once more
The house of thy Father will open its door,
And thou once again, in thy plain russet gown,
Mayst hear the thrush sing from a tree of its own.

 

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