Jayne Dawson: It’s time for a city landmark we can see from space

STEEL YOURSELF: A model of sculptor Steve Mehdi's Man of Steel  which could soon be watching over Sheffield.
STEEL YOURSELF: A model of sculptor Steve Mehdi's Man of Steel which could soon be watching over Sheffield.
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Someone needs to say it. It’s time to move on.

We have done the head-hanging in shame, we have put ourselves in the naughty corner. We have covered the full range of emotions consistent with regret, from embarrassment to humiliation.

Enough already.

YES, we did turn down the marvellous landmark that would have been the Brick Man all those decades ago; YES, we were insane to send sculptor Anthony Gormley packing. Not that he suffered, he has done just fine without us, thank you.

Its Leeds that has been very much the loser, remaining a bland place, somewhere up north, instead of that place with the Amazing Brick Man.

But it’s time to put the grieving behind us and COME UP WITH A NEW PLAN.

Leeds needs an iconic image.We turned down a cracker, but we need to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves down and start all over again. Really. We do.

I feel the urgency most particularly right now because Sheffield, otherwise known as A Rival Northern City, has the Man of Steel in its sights.

They just won’t let go. It’s going to cost a packet, the plan has been ruminating for years but, by gum, it’s clear that, somehow, they are going to get that fella towering over the M1 near Meadowhall.

Have you seen the models of him? If not, do have a look because this bloke is impressive.

He will be almost 100 feet high in all and will sit astride a huge plinth, glinting in the sunlight like a Greek god sent to survey the traffic.

Inside him there will be a Heart of Steel which will be more than nine feet high and will weigh two and a half tonnes all by itself. This heart is currently being used to help raise cash to build the man himself, and the plan is to have him in place next year. This, in turn, breaks my heart.

It is big, bold, ambitious thinking and I am jealous - we could use a bit of that in Leeds.

I mean, there are things that we are good for in this city: shopping, business, a good night out.

On the downside, we can also offer an excellent gridlocked, sitting-in-traffic, motoring experience - without the benefit of a beautiful piece of public art to inspire you as you crawl along.

Which is ironic really because we are good at sculpture round here. We have the Hepworth Gallery in Wakefield, the Yorkshire Sculpture Park and the Henry Moore Institute in Leeds.

We’re just lacking that one piece to put us on the map. Literally on the map. We need a giant, stonking, statement big enough to be seen from space.

Why not? Gateshead in Tyne and Wear has one. And that’s not fair, because I have barely heard of Tyne and Wear.

Yet those people up there have The Angel of the North - because those people up there had the sense to welcome Anthony Gormley with open arms after we had run him out of town via - it has to be said - a campaign in this very Yorkshire Evening Post.

Anyway. Bygones. Decades have passed since then. We have paid for our daftness with our anonymity. Other places were smarter. Even Liverpool, already stuffed with iconic images what with the Beatles and the Liver Birds and everything, knew not to turn down a piece of the Anthony Gormley action, gratefully accepting 100 of his life-size figures which now look out to sea on Crosby beach.

We messed up, we know we did. The nearest thing to a piece of landmark, iconic art we have is a statue of Billy Bremner and he was only a little fella, with absolutely no chance of being seen from space.

So let’s do something about it.

In 2023 we want to be the European Capital of Culture, I’m very much hoping to be around to enjoy that, and wouldn’t it be great to have a landmark icon in place by then, so everyone knew where to turn off the motorway to enjoy all we have to offer?

Sarah Champion MP

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