The Clerk in the Country

Friday 22nd December 2023

Surprised by a statue

A few years ago I encountered an animal sculpture which was attracting even more attention than the Ghost Bear in the Museum Gardens (see previous blog).  Pulling over for an oncoming wide load on the A19, I was surprised to see, protruding from each side of the approaching lorry, a huge black hand and, drawing level, on his back and very firmly trussed, the unmistakable figure of King Kong.

The giant ape’s destination was the Henry Moore Institute in Leeds, for an exhibition revisiting the City Sculpture Project 1972.  This project had commissioned large sculptures which eschewed traditional forms and materials for public spaces in eight cities in England and Wales.  The five metre tall King Kong by Nicholas Monro was originally on display in Birmingham where residents must have enjoyed seeing him as much as pedestrians on the Headrow in the winter of 2016-17.  Young and old seemed to react with amazement, curiosity and delight, but at least during my visit, despite the anger in his red eyes, I saw no trace of fear.  Who knows whether the young person in my photograph might be a budding Barbara Hepworth or a future David Attenborough, but this encounter with the legendary ape will surely be a treasured childhood memory.  It’s just a pity he’s too big to fit into a stegosaurus backpack.