The weird and wonderful world of the plinth at night

Putting yourself on the pedestal in daylight is one thing – but the real heroes of Trafalgar Square come out at night.

By day, the appreciative crowds have clapped, cheered, and encouraged the performers on Trafalgar Square's fourth plinth. Television crews have filmed them, tourists have stared at British eccentricity, and art aficionados, fresh from the National Gallery, debate the true meaning of the Antony Gormley installation.

But after dark – when the crowds are replaced by a few passing stag parties and the obligatory gaggle of barefooted girls carrying their stilettos – the plinth is a grimmer place.

Over the past few nights, The Independent has kept an often lonely vigil at Gormley's living portrait of Britain as – enduring more drunken abuse than artistic appreciation – a few take the stage, brave the dark and the rain and simply try to get through their performance unscathed.

"I was wearing a mask which I could not really see through very well, but I think that was a blessing in disguise," said Jodie Copeland, a 32-year-old music promoter, who took to the plinth at 2am on Sunday.

The Southampton man had donned a skin tight "Morph suit", in honour of Tony Hart's Plasticine model. It was, he said, all the rage at Glastonbury this year.

"I was trying to give some exposure to local bands," he said after descending from the plinth in the specially adapted cherry picker.

"There were quite a few people shouting things at me. One girl seemed particularly keen that I take off everything. Come to mention it, so was one bloke but he seemed to wander off after a while. A lot of people were asking me to throw the various props I had down to them, so I gave them my space-hopper." One girl was sent sprawling as the group fought for the inflatable toy. The winner bounced happily away up Pall Mall.

Mr Copeland was followed on to the plinth by a young woman who wanted to educate the public about the benefits of fungi. It turned out though, that extolling the virtues of mushrooms didn't go down too well with the 3am audience – particularly those drinking whiskey straight from bottles concealed in brown paper bags.

Apparently, they would have preferred her to strip, something they did not hold back from telling her as the rain began to fall more steadily. She declined their offer – it is, after all, quite cold on a plinth in Trafalgar Square at 3am.

For some, a lack of material was a problem, but many of the plinthers were content to simply stand and take in their surroundings.

That did not deter the drunken banter which at times bordered on abuse as 38-year-old Jim Penn, a film researcher from west London who was on at 11pm, found out after calls from the floor for him to account for the whereabouts of his wife. (Ever supportive, she was at the bottom of the plinth, as a matter of fact).

But for all of its drawbacks, night-plinthing also has its tender moments. One participant used her time on the plinth to ice a cake which she then presented to a member of staff who was celebrating her birthday.

Another plinther, 44-year-old Alix McCulloch, spent her hour spinning wool and said that, if anything, she preferred the late slot she was assigned on Monday night for the relative peace and quiet she enjoyed.

"I was not so worried about having a large audience watch me," she said. "The quieter slot was more in keeping with what I was doing. It would have been very strange to do such a tranquil performance in the middle of the day with hundreds upon hundreds of people around."

Gormley's work, titled One & Other, invites participants to take to the fourth plinth for one hour each. The 100-day exhibition will feature 2,400 people who are allowed to do anything they want during their time in the limelight, so long as it is legal.

The plinthers were chosen at random but had to be UK residents aged over 16 and equal numbers of men and women have been chosen. The UK population will also be represented proportionally, with a set number from each region to take part.

Art of darkness: The plinth's night-time occupants

*Jodie Copeland,

The Southampton man took to the plinth at 2am to promote local music. A 32-year-old 'festival nut', he said he wanted to have his own mini Glastonbury. The death of his mother, Josie Roe, shortly after his application to stand on the plinth, prompted him to dedicate his appearance to her memory. Friends sent sky-lanterns – mini-hot air balloons – floating over London in a moving tribute while he entertained crowds with a series of wacky props.

*Alix McCulloch,

The 44-year-old project manager span sheep fleece into yarn during her time on the plinth. She described finding the 10pm slot peaceful: "If anything I would have preferred an even later time," she said, adding that her performance was about showing the benefits of making things by hand. "As I spin, my heart rate slows and my blood pressure drops; the ups and downs of the day ebb away."

*Billie Niblock

She wanted to promote Spice, a company which organises activities such as fire-eating workshops. Watched by friends, she used time in the spotlight at midnight to ice a cake which she then donated to a One & Other staff member who was celebrating a birthday. A fan of Antony Gormley's work, she described her pride at being selected to appear on the plinth.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump

TV

Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

film
Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

TV
Arts and Entertainment
William Pooley from Suffolk is flying out to Free Town, Sierra Leone, to continue working in health centres to fight Ebola after surviving the disease himself

music
Arts and Entertainment
The Newsroom creator Aaron Sorkin

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Berry (centre), the star of Channel 4 sitcom 'Toast of London'

TVA disappointingly dull denouement
Arts and Entertainment
Tales from the cryptanalyst: Benedict Cumberbatch in 'The Imitation Game'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Pixie Lott has been voted off Strictly Come Dancing 2014

Strictly
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

    Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

    The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
    Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

    Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

    The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
    Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

    The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

    Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
    La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

    Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

    The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
    10 best high-end laptops

    10 best high-end laptops

    From lightweight and zippy devices to gaming beasts, we test the latest in top-spec portable computers
    Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

    Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

    The batsman has grown disillusioned after England’s Ashes debacle and allegations linking him to the Pietersen affair
    Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

    Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

    The Williams driver has had plenty of doubters, but hopes she will be judged by her ability in the cockpit
    Adam Gemili interview: 'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

    'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

    After a year touched by tragedy, Adam Gemili wants to become the sixth Briton to run a sub-10sec 100m
    Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

    Homeless Veterans campaign

    Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
    Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

    Meet Racton Man

    Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
    Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

    Garden Bridge

    St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
    Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

    Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

    An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
    Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

    Joint Enterprise

    The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
    Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

    Freud and Eros

    Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum