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Category Archives: HG Wells

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What do you think about, when you think about Woking? Do you think about the Year Zero state of the town centre, with construction sites the norm for years and years as the town’s skyline becomes ever more vertical? Or car parking chaos, as provision is drastically reduced while said construction is carried out? Or do you perhaps think about the town’s growing array of public art, a wildly varied mix, from a Martian to a pop group rendered into lumps of wood, to cricketing twins and a sci-fi novelist that put the town on the map by destroying it, and a number of human-sized figures with gloomy countenances?

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It’s this eclectic bunch of sculptures that is providing a good a way as any to navigate your way around the town, as well as giving a Woking a slightly wacky new identity.  It all began with the Woking Martian tripod, designed by sculptor Michael Condron and unveiled in 1998 in Crown Square. It is of course inspired by the HG Wells novel The War of the Worlds, and is of chrome electropolished stainless steel. Nearby is the cylindrical pod, right, resembling the crafts in which the space invaders arrived. The pod is depicted ploughing into the ground, with embellished paving slabs representing the bacteria that eventually destroyed the invaders.

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In 2012, after a campaign which Wokingmatters enthusiastically backed, a tribute to Woking’s  phenomenally successful punk/Mod band The Jam appeared.  The sculpture, by artist Richard Heys, is called The Space Between, and is comprised of three shaped pieces of wood, seven metres high. Jam fans that flocked to the unveiling ceremony were generally bemused at this representation of their heroes, it has to be said. But then Paul Weller did describe Woking as a Town Called Malice, said it was a depressing place to grow up in,  and did very well out of the song – so what else could he expect?

 

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In 2015 two far less controversial Woking figures were honoured – Surrey’s cricketing Bedser twins Alec and Eric, represented by two bronze statues by Alan Sly on the footbridge over the Basingstoke canal, beside the Lightbox and the WWF headquarters. Alec is bowling to Eric, right, who has despatched the ball into the wall of the Woking borough council building on the other side of Victoria Way, where it is embedded.  A nice touch that always makes Wokingmatters smile, every time we see it. They were unveiled by former prime minister and Surrey cricket fan Sir John Major, who famously said upon his election defeat in 1997 that he was leaving Downing Street and was off to the Oval to watch some cricket that same afternoon.

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HG Wells himself was commemorated with a statue in Woking in 2017, the 150th anniversary of his birth. The sculpture by Wesley Harland, left, was first positioned outside the Lightbox before it was shifted to its “permanent” site at Victoria Gate, in an obscure area of the town that is little visited. Wokingmatters regrets this, and feels it should have stayed outside the Lightbox, where many more people would see it, even if its present location does leave it closer to the Martian Tripod and attendant pod. Arguably they too could be moved to a more open location – and maybe they will be in due course.

 

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The biggest addition to Woking’s collection of public art came in the same year, when Woking-born sculptor Sean Henry’s work was on show at the Lightbox. Five examples of his sculptures appeared in various locations in Woking town centre, and were originally intended as a temporary art trail to publicise the exhibition. But now they are here to stay: the slightly larger than life Standing Woman, right, in the entrance to the Peacocks Centre shopping mall, the Standing Man in Jubilee Square, the Seated Man on the platform at Woking station, and The Wanderer, top picture, who has returned to the refurbished Albion Square outside the station. Number five, Man Lying Down, is due to be re-installed when the Victoria Square development is complete.

Other examples of Woking’s public art includes Paralympic basketball player Ade Adepitan by Christine Charlesworth in Jubilee Square; the Pegasus tree carving in Horsell; Surrey Hills, three willow cyclists on metal hills, by Sarah Holmes, in the Wolsey Place shopping centre; and Richard Jackson’s Exchanging Luminance in the Lightbox courtyard.

The whole collection gives Woking a human touch, amid its concrete blocks and new, soaring towers. Woking council should be commended for providing it – the town feels a lot better for it.

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