I miss the Tinsley Cooling Towers - demolished in 2008 - but I’m really looking forward to the sculptor Alex Chinneck’s replacement for them. He won the commission for this major public art project in the Tinsley Locks and Blackburn Meadows area with his proposal for a group of red brick chimneys. At 30 metres high and covering a trail a mile long, they will create a playful new landmark at the gateway to the Sheffield City Region. His plans show that one of the chimneys is tied in a knot, there are two leaning chimneys bridging the Sheffield and Tinsley Canal, one chimney has an upper section that - in his trademark urban illusion - appears to float, and one seems to be cracking and will be lit from inside at night.
At a meeting in September at the Town Hall Chinneck said that his inspiration was the industrial history and beauty of the Lower Don Valley. Calling his sculpture ‘Onwards & Upwards’, he said ‘Tinsley has a proud and important industrial heritage and many chimneys once lined the canal. Through a process of architectural re-introduction, sculptural re-imagination and modern manufacturing, we have attempted to create a regionally relevant and nationally significant cultural attraction. The artwork is being made for Sheffield, by Sheffield, and represents a monumental achievement that is only possible by working in partnership with the unrivalled concentration of world-class companies found in the city.’
Chinneck has spent a good deal of time in the area, working with local schools, cultural organisations and businesses to realise his ideas. The project was initially funded by E.ON, with partners including Sheffield City Council, Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council, Tinsley Forum and Arts Council England - new major sponsors have recently come on board. Also, an application has been made to the Northern Cultural Regeneration Fund for a share of £15million to ‘help build a lasting regional legacy from the Great Exhibition of the North’.
The sculpture is planned to be completed in 2019 in time for the Sheffield and Tinsley Canal’s bicentenary. Chinneck’s intention is to create an immersive sculptural experience, linking Sheffield and Rotherham, that people can approach on foot, and by bike and boat. I’m hoping the view from the motorway will also provide a spectacle to rival the Angel of the North.
Loveday Herridge, December 2017
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