Yesterday I made my second ever visit to ‘Dream’, situated on Sutton Manor Coillery in St Helens.
Dream is the spectacular, internationally significant, landmark sculpture sited on the former Sutton Manor Colliery in St.Helens, close to Junction 7 of the busy M62, midway between Manchester and Liverpool, where it is passed by over 35 million vehicles a year.
The 20 metre-high artwork takes the form of a young girl’s head with her eyes closed in a seemingly dream-like state. The piece has a white, almost luminescent finish in marked contrast to the black of the coal that still lies below. Its contours and reflectivity change according to the time of day and the weather.
Dream was conceived and designed by the world-renowned, award-winning, Spanish artist Jaume Plensa. His other works include The Crown Fountain (2000) in the centre of Chicago and Breathing, the illuminated glass dome of BBC Broadcasting House in London.
Commissioned by ex-miners and St.Helens Council, the sculpture reflects the aspirations of the local community, who, far from wanting a mining monument, sought instead a forward-looking piece that would provide a beautiful, inspiring, contemplative space for generations to come.
Over and above honouring the human heritage of the site, the artwork is also intended to symbolise the area’s positive post-industrial transformation, become an iconic new regional landmark, generate significant economic benefits, and enhance local pride.
Dream St Helens
Usain Bolt Pose
The walk up to the sculpture through the Coillery is enjoyable because of the wild flowers and spectacular views over Cheshire and Merseyside. I longed for my bike for the climb but I think I would have collapsed from exhaustion going up the gravel pathways.
Once you finally see ‘Dream’ you get a really uncanny feeling because of how big it is but also due to the white hue of the concrete against the bright sky. Imagine seeing the white face of a girl standing 20 metres high atop a hill and thinking…’what the hell?’….well it feels like that. I’m not certain how true it is either, but apparently a few drivers on the M62 have crashed due to the strange looking head sticking out the side of the hill. I wouldnt be surprised if this is true and it’s no wonder either. I’m sure plenty of people have never seen anything as strange or peculiar in their lives and to see that during the monotony of driving would be a major mind-fuck. Take this photo of me with Dream as an example…
I do enjoy seeing ‘uncanny’ art and Dream certainly fits my idea of that category. It has the eerie presence I associate with great sculpture, the element of altered scale that perplexes the mind into confusion, the beauty and form that captures the imagination and the setting and context to stir people’s hearts to inspiration.
That being said, many local people were not happy with the approximate £1.8m price tag that came with the sculpture and some of their doubts were well founded if not a little uninformed. Yes the money could have been spent on schools, hospitals, public services like police and fire brigades – these are all vauable facets or our society and valid reasons to spend that amount of money. I understand that. However, the arts in Britain are a valuable commodity (and they are a commodity) that get overlooked by the majority of people as pointless and trivial. I always think people hold these opinions because they simply don’t understand the art or are too wound up in their daily grind in society that they have no time to consider art as valuable. I’m not saying that people who doubt the power of art are thick or ill-informed either, their reasons are just as valid as my own as an art enthusiast. But there are many underlying positives to Big Art that the public often fail to consider…
The cost of the Dream may be steep, but think of the 35 million motorists that pass it by every year who might think
‘I wonder what that is? I might go take a look at that one day.’
These people probably get home from their commute, google the phrase ‘sculpture M62, st helens’ or something along those lines and actually go and see it one day. They probably spend some money whilst visiting because people need to eat food, use services and even pay for petrol down the road from Sutton Manor. These visits all add up for a local economy and images of Dream adorn every sign into St Helens you come across. It isnt just a sculpture anymore, it is a symbol the people of St Helens can use, an icon and inspiring monument that can generate interest in the town, their culture and their history. The local people of Sutton Manor can be proud of their symbolic sculpture just like the people of Gateshead can be proud of their Angel of the North, or the people of Liverpool and the other famous Anthony Gormely monuments on Crosby beach.
I’m not advocating that all sculpture and monuments should have these underlying economical factors scrutinised by everybody either. Art is different to everyone. Some people may be moved by Dream and others not. That’s fine. Art doesn’t have to have a point to be valid. Why can’t we just accept the creative outbursts of our civilisation and not have to worry about the economy or the ‘waste’ of money. Stockbrokers waste money every day on pointless shit. At least art can inspire you to do something good with yourself or others. What inspiration can you take from buying gold cheap and selling high apart from looking forward to the Horlicks you’re going to drink before bed to put your soulless vessel of flesh you call your body to sleep? Dream is valid. It is inspirational and it is a valuable addition to the North West.
I implore you to get your shoes on, grab the car keys and scoot your uninspired ass over to St Helens, along the M62 to Dream and take a good hour to appreciate the giant face atop Sutton Manor.
Really though, it is well worth the visit and you can even take your children or dawg Fido for a walk. It will be lovely. There are scenic paths with lots of poetry-adorned wiggly sculptures that look like wizard hats dotted along the trails and also a nice pond on one side of the hill.
Thanks for reading. On a side note – as we’re starting up The Lemon Collective – bringing you lots of reviews, short stories, funny pictures, strange and wonderful art & creative media in general – we would appreciate your input and for you to share each post if you enjoy it. Feel free to leave us comments and email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with any suggestions you have, or maybe something you want TLC to review or react to. Thanks
Denzel on his iPwn