Britten sculpture taking shape

A SCULPTOR and an engineering firm are facing up to the challenges of creating a stainless steel sculpture in honour of British composer Benjamin Britten.

A SCULPTOR and an engineering firm are facing up to the challenges of creating a stainless steel sculpture in honour of British composer Benjamin Britten.

The sculpture in the form of two huge scallop shells is taking shape at a workshop in his adopted home of Aldeburgh.

Steel fabricators JT Pegg & Sons are shaping and welding the steel pieces under the guidance of renowned sculptor and artist Maggi Hambling OBE, who lives at Rendham and wanted to honour the work of the famous composer.

The Peggs describe the piece as "an engineering challenge".

It is hoped it will soon rise up from Aldeburgh's shingle shore, in time to be unveiled as Aldeburgh hosts a Cultural Villages of Europe event in September.

The large, rounded ridges of the shell and the many complex shapes contained in the planned sculpture have to be worked out by eye since there are no straight lines.

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It will eventually weigh about four tonnes, and will be 11ft high, nearly 13ft deep and nearly 17ft wide.

It is being made out of costly 10mm thick stainless steel – one of the few materials which will be able to withstand the constant onslaught it will face from the sea.

"You think a scallop shell is quite a simple shape, but when you actually look at it, it's actually quite complex – it's curve upon curve. The organic shape of the shell in itself is very strong," explained Ms Hambling.

Proposals for the sculpture hit problems after the town council and the Aldeburgh Society objected to plans to site it near the town's fishermen's huts because it was felt it would be too close to the town. English Nature had ruled out another site because of its potential effect on plant life.

But supporters of the project met with Judith Foord, chairman of the Aldeburgh Society and a representative from English Nature last week to discuss an alternative site further away from the town towards Thorpeness and near the beach car park.

Ms Hambling said: "It was a very good meeting and they were very sympathetic. We all respect obviously what grows on the beach and what lives on the beach, but this particular spot we have found is where the public walks anyway.

"I think the feeling was we can all work together and the sculpture can go where we all want it to go."

Supporters of the project are £30,000 short of the £70,000 target for making the sculpture but Ms Hambling has decided to take a leap of faith and begin work.

Sam Pegg, managing director at JT Pegg and Sons Ltd, said: "There's so much more to do yet. We have spent a lot of time thinking about how we are going to do it. There's nothing straightforward – there are no straight lines."

"It's an engineering challenge without a doubt, because there are no straight lines. We don't mind a challenge," he added.

Ms Hambling approached Mr Pegg, who she described as "an excellent craftsman" with an outline idea for the project before producing a scale model.

Ms Hambling said: "I'm really excited. Making a piece of sculpture is always an obviously longer process than making a painting. It's a much slower process because it has to be built, and as Sam says, it's an engineering problem."

They expect to complete the work towards the end of August.

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