Published: 10 June 2021
Now this I find fascinating. You wont, but I do. Among my shots in 1975, there is a sequence of pictures of Maggie and myself taken in a makeshift studio in our flat in Gough Road, followed by shots from the window and then three frames at the end, which picture a model of a gorilla in a public space in Birmingham. I vaguely remember taking the pictures then, I think I remember that I knew nothing about the gorilla at the time or why it was there, I think I thought that somehow it was related to a student rag week (do we still have student rag weeks? I havent seen any evidence of them for years and years).
The negatives are massively under exposed and I even left them out of the contact prints made at the time. In my first pass at processing the negatives digitally I just got them to the point where I could see what was in the shot, labelled them as "unknown" and moved on. No intention of putting them on site for public inspection. Then, this evening, in an idle moment, I thought I'd consult the web to see if I could pin down the location.
Well bless me, if I could. The picture (attached) is of King Kong. King Kong is an 18 foot, 1,960lb fibreglass statue by Nicholas Monro. According to the web he was commissioned for placement in Manzoni Gardens in 1972 as a tribute to the brutalist City Engineer largely responsible for the post war development of Birmingham, Sir Herbert John Baptista Manzoni.
Manzoni believed that the preservation of architecture was wasteful sentimentalism. Manzoni set about destroying the old city and replacing it with his triple inner city ringroad system within which the people were as often as not put below the traffic, albeit frequently in open subways.
"I have never been very certain as to the value of tangible links with the past. They are often more sentimental than valuable... As to Birmingham’s buildings, there is little of real worth in our architecture. It's replacement should be an improvement... As for future generations, I think they will be better occupied in applying their thoughts and energies to forging ahead, rather than looking backward."
Manzoni Gardens is, or rather was, an open public space inside St. Martin's Circus, largely on the site of Birmingham's old Bull Ring Market and Market Hall, the destruction of which caused some controvesy at the time. Manzoni Gardens has now been buried it's self by yet more shopping malls.
Now what makes it really fascinating, again I stress facinating for me and probably not for you, (well almost certainly not for you, no reason why you should be interested at all, unless you have a particularly interest in fibreglass animals or brutalist architecture) is that the official histories on the web are quite certain that King Kong was only displayed for 6 months and then sold to a used car dealer ("Which is" suggested Max, "surely a fitting sequence of events for a tribute to Mr Manzoni"). But here he is, perhaps not in Manzoni Gardens but on display, in a public space, in Birmingham, in August, 1975.
I have done my best to touch him up, if you'll forgive the expression (one has to be so careful these days), and will, after all be putting him on the web, he's of too much historic value not so to do. And, in another pique to my interest, I noticed when I blew him up for some detailed negative repairs, that Maggie is there too, between his legs, if you will.
Beer and biscuits
- Manhattan Project
- Netherfield Lagoons.
- Ludlow Blondes
- Ilkley Summer
- Midnight Owl
- Dancing Duck
- Bass in the Chestnut
- Harvest Pale
- Slap in the Face
- Elsie Mo
- Green King IPA
- The Famous Grouse
- Snowhite Pale
- Electric Dreams
- Theakston's Old Peculiar
- Bass - King's Head
- Speculation Ale
- Summer Storm
- Black Sheep
- Citra - The Embankment
- Butcombe Original
- Oakham Citra
- Catch the Rain
- Modern Love
- Postcode Envy
- Shipstones' Goldstar
- American IPA
- Brother Rabbit
- The Enemy Within (4th Edition) - Seumas Milne 2014
- Tessa, The Trader's Wife - Louis Becke (1901)
- The End of the Tether - Conrad (1902)
- La Dame Aux Camilias - Alexandre Dumas
- Turn of the Screw - Henry James
- The Beast in the Jungle - Henry James (1903)
- Alice's Adventures in Wonderland - Lewis Caroll 1807
- Man and Maid - Elinor Glyn (1922)
- The Hollow Needle - Maurice Leblanc = 1909
- Montpelier Parade - Karl Geary
- Five Run Away Together. - Enid Blyton
- Dracula - Bram Stoker - 1897
- Days Without End - Sebastion Barry (2016)
- The Witch Finders's Sister
- A Week in December - Sebastian Faulks
- The Devil and Miss Prym - Paul Coelho - 2000
- The Long and Winding Road - A Memoir (Alan Johnson 2016)
- William (Richmal Crompton 1929)