Discussion Forum

No! to Sun Dial in the square

From David Wheeler
Sunday, October 1, 2006

I object to the proposal of the Sun Dial monument in the centre of St. George's Square Hebden Bridge and my concerns are in two areas:

  • It will make the area inflexible for community and artistic activities.

  • The merit of the design

I have been excited and supportive of the pedestrianisation of the square and hope that freeing the area of cars and kerbs will open up the space visually and practically for many beneficial activities.

As a large immovable monument in the central position of the square, the Sun Dial would inhibit or prevent a varied list of community and arts activities, from traditional carol singing and morris dancing to contemporary street theatre and dance. The monument would obstruct the building of temporary staging and small marquees for other activities including musical events, fun-day activities, exhibitions, school concerts etc. Also, an uncluttered St. George's Square is an ideal focus for special events in the Arts Festival programme.

I hope we can engineer a more coherent plan for the cultural content of the square, which will reflect the new wave of creativity in the town. The evidence for the importance of the textile industry is clearly evident everywhere we look in Hebden Bridge and more could be done to inform visitors of the fascinating history of this area and display civic pride. But I believe that choosing a symbol of what is now a dead industry as the new town centre landmark is not a positive statement for our community. We should look to the future for the young people of Hebden Bridge.

I hope we can resist the temptation to immediately fill the newly acquired space with permanent objects - as well as the monument, this also includes bollards, giant planters, immovable seating, fixed waste bins etc. I appreciate that a great deal of time and thought will have gone into the design of the Sun Dial, but a little more time for contemplation of the space as it is, and consultation with the people who will use the square long into the future, would help to inform a design for an important public space. If there is a feeling that the square would benefit from a focal point, then I hope the steering group who are in control of the space would welcome concepts that are imaginative and enlivening of our town centre and help create a rich cultural legacy.

Let's not block the square with immovable monuments.

Bring the square to life!

David Wheeler
Artistic Director IOU Theatre

From Oscar
Monday, October 2, 2006

Mostly agree! I quite like the idea of the sun-dial face set in stone, but totally object to the gnomon. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gnomon)

Apparently, it's a replica fustian (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fustian) cutting knife three metres high with a stainless steel blunt tip set in a bronze sheath. It will be surrounded by an iron and timber circular seat and sited at the centre of an 8 metre paved clock face. Lovely!

I've attended planning meetings and have objected to a knife being the focus of the square. I was told (repeatedly) a sundial needs a gnomon.

I suggested that if they insisted on a sundial it should be interactive, you stand in the middle of the paved clock face and interact with the sun and the earth to determine the time - a human gnomon. Now that's Hebden Bridge!

It would also keep the square clear for more flexible use in the future. So, its no to knives and yes to human gnomons.

From Andy M
Monday, October 2, 2006

I've previously suggested a statue of Jeremiah would be more appropriate, given the history of the pedestrainisation project.

I'm prepared to compromise and make it movable if you like.

From Andrew Hall
Monday, October 2, 2006

I always thought a sundial needed sun to function properly.

Posted by Rev Tony Buglass
Monday, October 2, 2006

I do like the idea of a human gnomon and an interactive sundial. That would have my vote - except, the sundial itself has an 8m clock face, which would rule out anyone under about 9 ft tall casting a long enough shadow to register. So, are we looking for a 9ft tall Jeremiah...? Or will platform shoes be making a come-back?

I take David's point of not filling the square with immoveable furniture. I simply ask how far the sundial with gnomon and seat will actively inhibit activities, and how far it will provide a focal point. When we do the carols singing, for example, the platform the clergy use to lead it often feels a bit peripheral. Standing on a seat beside the gnomon might feel a bit more central.

Posted by Jack Hughes
Monday, October 2, 2006

If we are to have a sun dial in the Square, hopefully it can be set up to run 25 minutes slow so as to be in sync with the town hall clock.

From Oscar
Monday, October 2, 2006

Rev, the height of the person is only one factor in determining the length of the shadow. With the sun directly overhead even the tallest Jeremiah statue would cast a tiny shadow. However, during the long summer evenings with the sun low on the horizon - as often seen in Hebden Bridge - even a Jack Russell would cast a shadow long enough to tell the time.

Jack, I think if you stand in the middle and stick your arm out then you could actually cast a shadow for the time to coincide with the town clock.

Further research reveals - an example of a Human Gnome...

Quote 'These sundials are especially popular with children; you stand on a spot marked for the month of the year, and your shadow indicates the approximate time.'

Also, on a point of vandalism...

Quote - 'My client wants to donate a sundial to the university, but since it is in a very public place we wanted a design as vandal-proof as possible. Since gnomons are usually the part of a sundial that is vandalized first, a human gnomon is the perfect solution to vandals.'

I may be over sensitive here and I'd prefer the human gnomon option than something fixed. But, if it has to be fixed then, please, not a knife!

Posted by Rev Tony Buglass
Tuesday, October 3, 2006

Thanks, Oscar - I was working on the basis of a human gnomon functioning in the same way as the proposed metal thingie, so needing to be the same height. Angle of sun is the mst important thing - I assume the planners have selected a spot which will get sufficient low sun? In December and January, when the southern sun is at its lowest, will it clear the roofline on the south of the square? What about the western aspect? From our house on Birchcliffe Road the sun disappears quite early behind Heptonstall, so we never see a proper sunset. We might have a good sundial which doesn't actually get the sun even when it shines.

I like your point about the vandal-proof nature of the human gnomon.

Posted by Molly Sunderland
Tuesday, October 3, 2006

Jack, Having lived in the area all my life I didn't know we had a Town Hall let alone a Town Hall Clock! Where has this been hiding all these years? I know we have a Council Offices, a Co-op Hall clock and a millennium clock but please tell me where the Town Hall is!

Posted by Jack Hughes
Wednesday, October 4, 2006

Sorry, Molly, a slight mental glitch there, probably due to fatigue and tipsiness when I made yon post. I am of course referring to the clock of uncertain ownership that looks down on Crown Street. It seems that this timepiece traditionally tells the right time for a couple of weeks per year - a week or so after the change from BST to GMT and vice versa - before reverting to its own peculiar 25-minutes-behindness for the remainder.
Your pedantry does you proud!

Posted by Jan Scott
Wednesday, October 4, 2006

Joking apart :) it has always struck me as strange that, given the considerable public consultation that went on in order to bring about, amongst many other delights, the pedestrianisation of the Square, we seem to be having our public art thrust upon us with no consultation whatever!
Was there a competition? Anyone know what the process was?

From Oscar
Saturday, October 7, 2006

It gets worse! There's now a number of stone monoliths that have been installed, cluttering the square even more. I thought the sun dial face was to be built in to the paving.

Not sure if these glorified traffic bollards form any part of the clock, but I haven't seen them on any drawings or heard them mentioned in any meetings.

The squares beginnning to look like an adventure playground!

From Paula
Wednesday, October 11, 2006

I haven't posted a response to anything on the Hebweb before but wanted to say something about the sun dial.

The dial and the stone bollards are the work of local artist Mike Williams who does have considerable experience with public art commissions; however, as far as I am aware the commission was not put out to tender. There are many talented artists living in the Hebden area and I feel that there is some kind of insider job going on here.

As others have pointed out, there was no public art shown on the initial plans and nothing has been said in the HB Times. I have heard on the grape vine that the sun dial idea was a pet project of Mr X (* see below) which just seems a little suspicious to me. Isn't he on all the local boards and councils?

I have also heard that the council got the commission on the cheap as some kind of favour. This may be idle gossip but if not, even more suspicious. I have nothing against the artist personally and think he is more than capable of producing a competent piece of public sculpture but considering some of the original and inspiring works that we could have had in the square this is just all a bit disappointing.

* Name withheld for legal reasons, and in accordance with forum guidelines - webmaster

Posted by Rev Tony Buglass
Tuesday, October 3, 2006

If I were to commission stone features for the front garden of Hebden Bridge Methodist Church, wouldn't I require planning permission? And had I placed them in the footpath towards the door, wouldn't I have to meet various health and safety criteria?

I don't have a problem in principle with sculpture in the square. If the selection process has been underhanded, that is a problem which should be addressed, but so far that is no more than hearsay. What is more of a concern is that the original artwork of the finished square showed no sculpture at all. It was an open pedestrianised space. Have we been misled? Most concerning of all, are we about to see a repeat of the stone sets fiasco, where work done at significant expense then had to be reversed because it was illegal?

What is so very difficult about showing how a public area is to be developed, and then developing it the way it was shown?

Posted by Robert Collins
Thursday, October 12, 2006

Going to "Public consultation" with one set of plans, then lumbering us with something totally different is a recurring theme in the changes Hebden Bridge has seen in the past few years.

Pay and Display was originally sold to us as a short-term experiment in one car park only. The model for the development of the former Oldfield Watson site bore no relation to what was eventually built (at the time it was not made clear that the former TIC would be disposed of in the way we have seen either). The original artist's impression of the square can still be seen on this site; no yellow brick road, no sundial and no dodgily phallic looking stone effigies!