Leading Article: A home for Harold

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The Independent Online
In Huddersfield today they are deciding where to put the Harold Wilson commissioned from the local artist Richard Thornton. The planners are offering such suitably post-modern locations for the statue as the stairwell of a car park and a bridge overlooking the M62. The council will surely pick a more salubrious site, perhaps alongside the statue in the old town centre of Joseph Priestley, the 18th-century chemist. Wilson, immensely proud of his science connections, would have appreciated the company.

The trouble is that traditional monumental statuary does not fit in townscapes framed by golden arches and lit by billboards. Nor does it fit with our expectations any more. A handful of war heroes (villains, too, as some have judged Earl Haig and "Bomber" Harris) offer themselves to the rain and the pigeons; for the rest there is Paul McCartney and similar celebrities. But leave aside for a moment the myriad other ways in which immortality can be recorded in these days of the modern media: the Beatles in bronze do not look right.

Elsewhere, and not just in revolutionary societies, Washingtons, Bolivars and quite a few Gramscis stand in civic squares. Already the hunt is on for a fitting site in Paris to commemorate Francois Mitterrand. Here we cannot even see Winston Churchill in Parliament Square now that his plinth is surrounded by scaffolding.

The traditional heroes most appropriately commemorated by a statue are no more, and anyway we feel rather ambivalent about them. Our modern heroes - celebrities - are not suited to being cast in stone or metal. What we need is an approach that makes statues friendly and fun, not monumental and distant.

So fans of Sir Edward Heath ought to be out on the headlands and marinas of Broadstairs, canvassing spots where the great man might be placed, seated at an organ console, perhaps. When American friends raise funds for Baroness Thatcher to be chiselled in marble in the main street of Grantham, there will be no need to put her on a charger: she should be captured, arm upraised, brandishing that handbag.

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