Home Page New clock promises to give us time to disagree 01/11/13

Haverhill Poll
Haverhill Poll


Mailing List

Matthew Hancock
Your Local MP

Hart of the Matter

Who would have thought that putting up a clock near the bus station so passengers have some vague idea of the time in case a bus happened to adhere to the timetable could be contentious?


It just goes to show that almost anything can be turned into an ‘issue’ by people who are disputatious. My only complaint about the whole thing is that, yet again, St Edmundsbury Borough Council is being bailed out by the residents of Haverhill.


There was a clock there, placed in memory of Bill Blake, the town clerk who guided the former Haverhill Urban District Council through the decades of town expansion in the 1950s, 60s and early 70s – and yes, it was taller than the proposed new one, it was a biggish clock on top of a single pole thinner than a lamppost, and it didn’t need any stays to hold it up.


When St Edmundsbury decided to refurbish Jubilee Walk, and install the circular seating and the little cat (if you’ve never seen it, it’s worth trying to seek out the borough’s tiniest piece of public art), they took the clock away.


Why, then, do they not have to contribute towards putting another one in its place? As always, the town council will be footing the bill, so it will only be paid for by us, and no one else in the borough.


If such a clock were required in Bury, of course, it would be paid for by the borough, which means us again, along with everyone else, helping to subsidise the population of poor, deprived Bury St Edmunds. And that, in a nutshell, is why Haverhill’s council tax is higher than Bury’s.


As for the clock itself, the design certainly went down well with town councillors the other night. From the illustrations it does look attractive and, as Haverhill’s fourth major piece of public art, it will be in keeping with the others because it has been through much the same design process.


Although an artist of national repute was brought in to design the Spirit of Enterprise, he worked with Haverhill students on the design, and that process has continued through the Queen Street gates, the broadcasting head and now the new clock.


The result is that all have begun with the premise that Haverhill is a modern, forward-looking town, with lots of young people, and therefore not the sort of place to put ‘traditional’ art.


Not everyone likes that. The Spirit of Enterprise divides opinion, and I am sure its successors will too, but that is the function of public art. What a pity that some town welcome signs along the same lines could not have been devised, instead of the bland, could-be-anywhere ones that have been put up recently.


One of the design strands which one can see recurring through all these art projects is the use of light. It’s not always successful, but it does at least get away from great big Victorian marble or 1960s concrete blocks.


The Spirit of Enterprise can look absolutely stunning in the right light, as anyone who has driven down the bypass towards it when it is lit by the early morning or late evening sun will have noticed.


Equally, it can look like the proverbial roll of chicken wire on a dull day when the light is grey and flat. At night, when all the lights and lasers in it are working it is also most impressive.


The Queen Street gates are also brought to life beautifully by sunlight from the right angle, but they can look a bit tatty close to. I’m not convinced by the promised ‘ageing’ process - perhaps it hasn’t happened yet.


Worse still they are lit by little strings of coloured lights which would be far more at home on the Recreation Ground when the fair is here, or before Christmas in Poundland. Why on earth something with at least an atom of subtlety and taste could not have been achieved I am at a loss to explain. Something autumnal would have looked good.


We have yet to see how the head will be lit, but I have seen the basic structure and it, too, picks up sunlight beautifully. I guess the clock will do much the same, and let us hope it, at least, is lit with a degree of subtlety, while remaining legible.


The design of the clock’s ‘crown’ is neat and cleverly devised, although how obvious the incorporation of a face for each county will be to the casual observer is less clear. Probably more straightforward will be the shape of the Olympic torch on which it will sit.


It is curious that Haverhill is seen as having so little history that something which happened last year is the most exciting moment to recapture. ‘But you just said we want something modern and forward-looking,’ I hear you cry. Just so – in design, but not necessarily in subject matter.


Perhaps the next piece of public art we get could provide a modern interpretation of something from Haverhill’s history - just to show there is one.


Look, for instance, at the brilliant evocation of St Edmund stuck with arrows on the Parkway roundabout in Bury, or, at a more general level, the huge ‘Christ the Weaver’ in Blackburn Cathedral. An industrial past can be given a modern, forward-looking celebration.


Nevertheless, the amount of public art around is not a bad indicator of the vitality of a community, and at £1 each for residents, that’s pretty good value.

David Hart
David Hart revives his personal take on the week in Haverhill, covering everything from major town developments to what we do with our rubbish.
© Haverhill-UK | Accessibility | Disclaimer