Page last updated at 19:54 GMT, Monday, 6 July 2009 20:54 UK

Man scales plinth ahead of launch


The campaigner clambered onto the plinth

A man scaled Antony Gormley's Plinth art project in London's Trafalgar Square, minutes before the event was due to begin.

Anti-smoking protester Stuart Holmes took a running jump on to the plinth, but agreed to come down when the first participant was raised into place.

London Mayor Boris Johnson said during his opening speech: "This is brilliant, this is what it's all about."

A new volunteer will take to the plinth every hour for the next 100 days.

More than 14,500 people have so far applied to stand on top of the platform, 22ft (6.7m) above Trafalgar Square.

We are reviewing security in light of what happened
Helen Marriage, event organiser

"I think it's fantastic - it's about capturing art for the people. It's about democratising art," Johnson said.

He told the BBC: "It's a profound meditation on the nature of fame and talent.

"Do these toga'd buffoons cast in bronze around Trafalgar Square deserve any more celebration than this person up there? This is the question - that's what this operation is trying to answer, but I leave it to you."

The protest overshadowed the entrance of housewife Rachel Wardell, 35, who was the first "living statue" to take part in the One and Other project.

As Ms Wardell was being winched into place, Gormley addressed the protester: "I hope you understand the whole idea of this is one person, one hour, one at a time.

"I hope you are going to do the gentlemanly thing and when Rachel arrives give up your beautifully-taken moment to her."

Rachel Wardell
Rachel Wardell was raising awareness for the NSPCC

Mr Holmes shouted that he wanted to be handed a microphone, but Gormley replied: "No, you should have brought your own - that was part of the rule."

Mr Holmes was given a round of applause by the crowd when he came down peacefully.

Gormley later told the BBC: "I owe him a big debt of gratitude for getting the whole thing off to a bang."

Helen Marriage, director of Artichoke, the organisation running the event, told the BBC measures were being taken to ensure a similar incident did not happen again.

She said: "There were four security guards up there. But we are reviewing security in light of what happened and making any necessary changes to ensure it won't happen again."

Speaking before the launch, Gormley explained the inspiration behind the art project.

"I thought it was a interesting idea to pluck people from their daily lives, or from the street, and see what they look like as a representation," he told the BBC.

'Nice tension'

The artist said the participants would experience "a nice tension between celebration and an elemental exposure test".

"It's the sort of thing you might do more frequently on a mountainside than in the middle of London," he added.

"The reaction is incredible - Rachel is the first one up and she's really going for it.

Gormley added plans for the project had been "tenterhook-y", with Westminster Council only approving the project three weeks ago.

After her hour was up, Ms Wardell said of her experience: "It was very peaceful being up there, although you can hear a lot of the conversations going on.

What makes this project interesting is that it is anti-monumental; giving the plinth over to the ordinary man or woman places value and merit in elevating the ordinary
Razia Iqbal, BBC arts correspondent

"You feel very removed from what's going on. It's a lovely view and a view you're never going to see again - it doesn't feel as high as it looks."

Ms Wardell was followed at 1000 BST by Jason Clark, a 41-year-old nurse from Brighton, who took pictures on his camera of the people below.

Other people to take to the plinth on the first day include Jill Gatcum, 51, a consultant from London, Suren Seneviratne, a 22-year-old Sri Lankan student and artist, and Ishvinder Singh Matharu, a 31-year-old optometrist from Chigwell in Essex.

The oldest among July's 615 participants is pensioner Gwynneth Pedler, 83, from Oxford, who plans to signal with semaphore flags.

Heather Pringle, a student from Hexham, will celebrate her 20th birthday on the plinth.

Living statues for following months will be announced later, with 2,400 people taking part up to 14 October.

Participants are chosen at random by a computer and can do anything they want on the plinth - as long as it is legal.

Applications will be accepted until 1 September when the last group of people is chosen.


Watch the first eight hours of the 'Plinth Project' in forty seconds.

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