Friday, 18 December 2020

Public Art – a Harlesden Challenge

Thanks to Philip Grant for this intriguing Guest Post:


‘Art is vital to renewal. It shows that people care about where they live and work.’ Those words from Gerry Davis, the CEO of Harlesden City Challenge in April 1994, launched a five-year public art project to brighten up an area which had become run down. 


But what and where was that public art in the Harlesden area, and what has happened to it since then? If you have any information about, or photographs of, any of those public artworks from the 1990s, please share it with me, so that we can make a permanent record of this part of Harlesden’s history.


1.The Sundisc sculpture, in the City Challenge community garden at Morland Gardens.
(Photo by Irina Porter)


One artwork I do know about is the Sundisc, which was installed in the Harlesden City Challenge community garden, at the corner of Brentfield Road and Hillside, in 1994. Brent Council plans to build over that site, as part of its redevelopment of the Victorian villa at 1 Morland Gardens, despite strong opposition. 


It was made a condition of the planning approval that: ‘the applicant shall ensure the satisfactory re-location of the Sundisc artwork, currently located to the south-east of the site, to an alternative part of the site or in its immediate surroundings.’ The application’s landscape masterplan does not show where this artwork would be re-located to (or any public space large enough for its re-location), so where it would be moved to remains a mystery.


The Sundisc sculpture was a collaborative work by two artists. The circle of steel, with scenes from local life cut out from it, was made by Geraldine Konyn, and stands on a raised platform of etched paving, by Guy Paterson, surrounded by a low brick wall. The plaque which stands on a nearby raised bed of shrubs says that this was ‘one of three Public Artworks launched in 1994’, and there may well be more around the Harlesden area, put up over the next few years.


2.The “Art in the City” plaque, by the Sundisc at Morland Gardens. (Photo by Irina Porter)



3.The entrance to the Community Garden and the Sundisc sculpture, from the top of Hillside.
(Photo by Margaret Pratt)


Another piece of public art, which I have come across in recent years on my way to outpatient appointments at Central Middlesex Hospital, are two tile murals in Acton Lane, near Harlesden Station. [Regular readers of Wembley Matters will know of my interest in tile murals, at Wembley Park!] These are on the walls of the bridge over the railway lines, and show scenes from the area’s canal and railway history. Does anyone know when these two colourful murals were installed, please, whether they were one of the Harlesden City Challenge projects, and if not, how they came to be here?


4.The Acton Lane railway bridge tile murals. (Photos by Philip Grant)


There must be other public artworks around the Harlesden area from the 1990s, hopefully still in place, but perhaps some which have already been lost. If you have any information, or photographs, the challenge now is to collect those details together. Please help, if you can.


If it is just information that you can provide, please add it as a comment below. If you have digital photos of a Harlesden public artwork that you can share, as well as information, please email them to Martin, and he will forward to me. Hopefully, with your help, we can put together an illustrated record of public art in Harlesden. I would love to be able to share more about it with you, in the New Year. Thank you.

Philip Grant.


Philip Grant said...

I have already received several pictures of an amazing mosaic artwork in Mordaunt Road. Thank you for these.

But more photos of this and other public art in Harlesden, and especially information about the artists and when their works were first installed, would be a great help, please.

Hayes Lurker said...

These collections are stunning and a vital part of Harlesden's history, many thanks for setting this up. I am currently working hard on improving the Harlesden article on Wikipedia. It would be much appreciated for volunteers to upload their photographs of these artwork under a valid CC license (e.g. on Flickr) so it can be added to wiki.

Philip Grant said...

Dear Hayes,

Thank you for your comment.

Most of the pictures sent to me so far were already on Willesden Local History Society's "public" Facebook group. I am not sure whether this means they can be treated as covered by "creative commons", so that you could use them for your Wikipedia update.

My intention is to put all of the information and photos that I manage to gather into an accessible pdf document, which will be made publicly available on the Brent Archives website (with a shorter illustrated blog for "Wembley Matters", to let readers know when that is available).

I hope this information is of some help, and good luck with your efforts to improve the Harlesden article on Wikipedia!

Hayes Lurker said...

Thanks Philip. The only way we can know if those photos are creative commons are if the Willesden history society (assuming they own them) publishes it as such, i.e. they will need to publish it on their website or on a site like Flickr (sites like Facebook are not valid!) with a clearly stated license. Of course this is assuming the society will permit a free license in the first place instead of copyrighting it!

An easy alternative would be for a local in Harlesden to take photos with their camera of these art and publish themselves under a free license (on Flickr, or etc.)

Thanks, I've tried to do my best at making the article look better.