Thursday, 12 July 2012

Getting well-sculptured in Harlow

Essex is full of surprises. Visited Harlow for my forthcoming book The Joy of Essex (Robson Press) and saw a Goth shouting “Ah it’s raining, me hair’s gonna get f**ked!” while standing by a sculpture called Portal Figure by F E M Williams. There's a Henry Moore and a Rodin, whoever he played for, by the Water Gardens, a meat porter by Ralph Brown in the market Square, a work by Barbara Hepworth and numerous figures around the town centre. Harlow has more than 100 pieces of public sculpture and in 2009 the Council voted to brand the town as “Harlow Sculpture Town — The World's First Sculpture Town”.

Harlow's MP Robert Halfon is understandably proud of this and tells me: "You get loads of snobbery from idiots who don’t know better or who’ve never been here. Not many people know we’re sculpture capital of England with Henry Moore sculptures all over the place. How many other new towns have that?" 

Of course, public sculpture always attracts interest from some Herberts interested in destroying it. John Young, the former Chair of the council tells me that one of his proudest moments was saving a Henry Moore sculpture that had a baby's head torn off by vandals and placing it inside the civic centre. Can high art exist in an Essex new town? Harlow is making a pretty good effort to ensure that Essex is in danger of getting well-cultured. 


  1. Harlow has a vibrant arts scene in addition to its justly renown sculpture collection. The Gibberd Gallery houses a particularly fine permanent collection of 20th Century watercolours, as well as a number of other exhibitions, and Gatehouse Arts and Parndon Mill have a rolling programme of work and exhibitions by local artists, as well as work in Harlow town library. When you add in Harlow's fantastic 'green wedges' part of the original Gibberd masterplan and a fantastic community spirit amongst Harlow's many positive features it is definately a great place to be.

  2. Thanks for the input Jon, I'll check out the art scene too. Impressed by the green wedges when I visited. A lot of people dismiss Harlow because it's a new town but there's clearly a lot going on locally...