Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education

Front Page



UK Politics







Talking Point
On Air
Low Graphics

Tuesday, December 22, 1998 Published at 15:14 GMT

February: Touched by an angel

Review of the Year
February saw Britain's tallest sculpture, the 'Angel of the North' erected onto the northern landscape. Critics described the 800,000 structure as 'vulgar' and possessing a 'Nazi gigantism'.
But for the locals, the most viewed public work of art represented something more.

Raymond Austin alias 'Ossie' - Newcastle United Fan

[ image:  ]
"One of my friends Kevin Waft thought of the idea, he was stuck in a traffic jam and just looked up at the angel and thought that would be brilliant to put a Newcastle United shirt on.

Obviously there is only one shirt, which is the number 9, so we thought about getting a Shearer shirt made to put on the angel. We paid about a thousand pounds to get the shirt made.

We kept it a real secret, we hardly told anyone until the day before. The day we had planned it for was an absolutely fantastic spring morning with no clouds, it just went off perfectly.

We had to buy fishing lines and catapults to fire the line over the Angel's wings. The lines went over the wings and we eventually put the Shearer shirt onto the angel.

The police were passing by, by chance. We didn't want the shirt confiscated so we quickly took it down and stopped them confiscating it from us. But there was no trouble, we hadn't done any damage so they were laughing about it.

The media exposure over our stunt just went absolutely haywire. I have never been so inundated in my life with phone calls and lives on the radio.

I couldn't believe that you could get so much harassment from the media. I'm glad my fame was only for one day - I couldn't cope.

If you had asked people whether they liked the angel before we had put the shirt up 50% of people would have said no. But when I eventually carried out this stunt and put the Shearer shirt on the angel, people thought "oh it does look good after all."

I really do think it is an amazing bit of engineering. When you go down South and you come back you know that you are home, back into the region."

Reverend Peter Windram, parish priest

[ image:  ]
"Millions of motorists pass the angel but I live right next to it.

I lived in Rio for about 15 years and used to go off to see the Christ of Corcovado. Although you can't compare the Angel to the statue in Rio, it is an amazing sculpture at the same time.

If it was to be taken away for any reason there would be a riot now. It is like a daily paper, It was controversial when it was put up but I think people are used to it now.

It was a great change and many people objected, but I would think now that they are so accustomed to it, they love it, they think it is brilliant.

I am just proud that I can go for a walk and I pass the angel, I always like to look at it. It is dark and naked against the skyline - . I would say lots of people in my parish see it as an angel, I really do.

I really do think the angel is symbolic. I think it is a tribute to the North East, to industry. It is a tribute to the ship industry the mines that have been finished and people associate it with lots of memories.

The angel I suspect has surprised even Anthony Gormley, the sculptor.

People see what they want to see and I as a socialist priest, love to see 'art' in the street and not closeted away in museums.

All I know is that even in Brazil most people know about it. I know for a fact that in Australia it has been on television and in Canada, I would think it has put Gateshead on the map. In a way, it is quite famous."

Maureen Adamson, Hotel Manager, Angel View Inn

[ image:  ]
"The hotel went under new ownership a year before the angel was erected. We thought the pub needed a new name, new management a new overhaul everything and with the angel of the north being there we thought it would be an appropriate name. It suited the hotel.

One of the most exciting times was when the angel was transported down from Hartleypool steel and the sculptor, Anthony Gormley and his family were here. It was being erected then that was a really, really good weekend for trade.

I think the novelty has worn of a little now but in the beginning yes trade was good. But we are still getting the same people coming backwards and forwards who have already seen the angel, so I think now it is just a matter of fact to those people.

Amongst the guests and regulars there is a lot of mixed feelings, a lot of them think it is marvellous, a few of them are non-committal. I think people would have had a different opinion of the angel if it had been painted if it had a bit of colour.

From a personal point of view I didn't like it at first because I don't like modern art in any form, but it has grown on me.

I really can't imagine life without it now. I don't think you would get the same comments from people who actually live by the angel because I wouldn't like to get up every morning and open my window and see that there right on top of us. It is nice from a distance.

I personally couldn't live without it now. I do look for it on the A1. It is always there and I think that is nice, it is a welcoming monument."

Advanced options | Search tips

Back to top | BBC News Home | BBC Homepage |

In this section

January: Scott Ritter

February: Touched by an angel

March: Jane Couch

April: Gitta Sereny

May (1): People of Northern Ireland

May (2): Mo Mowlam

June: The England-Argentina referee

July: Gill Samuels, Viagra creator

August: David Shayler

September: Neville Lawrence

October: Ann Widdecombe

November: Sally Becker

December: Deborah Hickey