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I might be alone...but I'm sad 'Cornhenge' plinths are gone

PUBLISHED: 08:15 30 August 2019 | UPDATED: 08:15 30 August 2019

The 'Cornhenge' plinths are being removed. Picture: PAUL GEATER

The 'Cornhenge' plinths are being removed. Picture: PAUL GEATER

Archant

I've never particularly been one to go with the crowd or court popularity.

Just as well, you might say - and my views on the removal of Ipswich's controversial 'Cornhenge' plinths might be about to put me further into that bracket.

The plinths, formally named The Four Gateways, have divided opinion ever since they were unveiled as part of the multi-million pound revamped Cornhill last September.

Well, I say divided - looking at the 200 comments on this newspaper's website and Facebook page, it would appear they actually attracted very little support at all.

They were called everything from to ugly and pointless - and the rather mocking 'Cornhenge' nickname, after the historically superior Stonehenge, summed up people's views.

Removal works on the four plinths in Ipswich town centre. Picture: RACHEL EDGERemoval works on the four plinths in Ipswich town centre. Picture: RACHEL EDGE

Whatever your views about the plinths, hopefully people can understand and sympathise with the reasons why they were erected in the first place.

Ipswich town centre had long been criticised, fairly or unfairly, for its lack of character.

Those were feelings were summed up in brutally harsh terms by former Marks and Spencer chairman Lord Stuart Rose when, in 2012, he said the centre of the town was "the most depressing place I've ever seen".

He added: "Standing in the town centre with the empty shops it is a barren wasteland."

His words are arguably what has jolted community leaders into action in making the town centre a better and more attractive space.

They are also words that would have been ringing in the ears of people redesigning the area.

The last thing any of those leading the Cornhill regeneration project would have wanted was to replace one "barren wasteland" with another.

For me, the plinths helped to avoid that.

Okay, I'm not pretending that they were most striking artistic structures worthy of the highest critical praise - but they did ensure there was something there to attract attention.

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The risk now, although admittedly I think it is easily overcome, is that it without them it leaves the Cornhill looking empty. Which is the very problem Lord Rose complained about in the first place.

Hopefully, it won't just be left that way and something of value will take up that space.

Even if it is something as simple as tables and chairs for any nearby eateries to move in there, as has been mooted, it would fill a void.

Perhaps something better could have been put there in the first place - whether a different type of artwork, plants or another sort of display.

One of the main complaints about the whole Cornhill renovation project though is the money that's been spent on it in financially challenging times.

Like I said, I didn't think the plinths were amazing - but we can hardly expect something wildly better if we're not prepared to pay for it.

That said though, what is good art? I'm hardly the best judge, but I'd have thought something that is noticed and gets people talking is a good start.

You might believe it was getting attention for the wrong reasons, but the plinths were at least being talked about. For me, that's immediately better than artwork that doesn't even get noticed.

In the end, it was an apparent error which brought the Four Gateways down.

The Ipswich Vision Partnership, which oversaw the revamp of the Cornhill, never paid for the plinths because their rough concrete finish - which could not be polished - was not what had been ordered.

It should have looked like polished marble. Who knows, maybe if it had people's views would have been different.

In any case, the majority - whatever I personally think - seemingly didn't like them, so I guess it's a good thing that those in charge have listened and acted on local opinion.

People often complain that their views aren't listened to, but they clearly have been here.

All I would urge with the whole of the Cornhill project is: give it time. Anything that's so radically different from what was there before is going to feel unfamiliar and take some getting used to.

Rather than make a definitive judgement now, see how it looks in two, three and even five years - and then by all means criticise.

And whatever the consensus, chances are I'll be saying the opposite…

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