Heaven and Hell: Suffolk sculptor Sean Hedges-Quinn

Suffolk sculptor Sean Hedges-Quinn with some of his work

Suffolk sculptor Sean Hedges-Quinn with some of his work. - Credit: Contributed

Sean Hedges-Quinn is a nationally acclaimed sculptor from Suffolk. He worked in the film industry over 16 years on over 30 feature films including five of the Harry Potter films, and the James Bond film Skyfall. Sean’s work can be found in several museums, including the Natural History Museum. Notable commissions include those of Sir Alfred Ramsey and Sir Bobby Robson statues for Ipswich Town Football Club. Next year will see the unveiling of his Kevin Beattie statue outside Portman Road.

What’s been the impact of Covid-19 on you and how have you adapted?
On the whole the pandemic and the subsequent lockdown were fortunately quite a positive time for myself and my family. Luckily being a professional sculptor, I work from home anyway as does my wife Hayley who runs her own accountancy firm. Our three children Niamh, Joe and Ryan were all home from school/uni so it was a rare chance for us to all have real quality time together. We just messed about really for three months! Our TikTok videos we put together are stuff of legend!

What is your connection to East Anglia?
I have lived here practically all of my life. Apart from the 10 years I lived in London whilst I worked in the film industry as a modelmaker/prop master, Suffolk has always been my home. My parents moved down from the East End of London to Alnesbourne Priory Caravan Park near Nacton in 1962. They wanted a less hectic and quieter way of life. That didn’t last long, I was born at Heath Road Hospital in Ipswich in 1968!

What is your East Anglian Heaven?
My love for East Anglia really stems from the influence of one of my former teachers. The remarkable Bob Woods who taught at my old school Westbourne High in Ipswich. For over 25 years throughout the 80s, 90s, and 00s he would organize the school summer camp at Iken, near Rendlesham in Suffolk. I helped out at the majority of those years and this is when my love for anything Suffolk was born. We canoed at Snape, cycled to the chip hut at Dunwich, hiked from Minsmere to Aldeburgh and boated on Thorpeness Mere. On the first evening of every camp he would walk 50 rowdy/excited 14 year old kids down to Iken estuary at sunset. He would make us settle down at the shore, tell us to ‘shut up’ for a minute and just look over the marshes towards the church. “Look!” he would say in his thick Brummie accent, “…. It’s REALLY beautiful yeah?” ….. and it was…It really really was…

What is your East Anglian Hell?
When the Orwell Bridge is shut. I just love that! And the A140 and the A12.

What’s your favourite East Anglian restaurant?
The Greyhound on Anglesea Road in Ipswich. A real gem of a pub, cracking atmosphere, lovely staff, and food to die for cooked by surely East Anglia’s greatest undiscovered chief, Brian Powlett.  

What’s the best thing that happens in East Anglia every year?
The one thing I particularly look forward to every year is the annual exhibition held at Christchurch Mansion in Ipswich. Over the last few years some of the exhibitions have been astonishing. Obviously, Ed Sheeran’s Made in Suffolk exhibition quite rightly received international recognition but there have been some crackers preceding that, John Constable’s Salisbury Cathedral, Rodin’s The Kiss (How did they even get that!?) and my personal favourite, Cardinal Wolsey’s missing angels. One of my ambitions is to one day have my own exhibition at Christchurch Mansion. I would be so proud.

Sean Hedges-Quinn working on a sculpture of Captain Mainwaring of Dad's Army

Sean Hedges-Quinn working on a sculpture of Captain Mainwaring of Dad's Army - Credit: Contributed

What's your specialist Mastermind subject?
At the moment it’s the Life and Times of Joseph Merrick, The Elephant Man. 
That is because this is the character, I am currently sculpting for a statue to be unveiled in Leicester. 
When I sculpt a particular person, I take it upon myself to thoroughly research the subject. It is vitally important to try and get under the skin of whoever you are to immortalise in bronze, what made them who they are? A couple of years ago I sculpted a statue of Emmeline, Christabel and Sylvia Pankhurst. What I do not now know about the Suffragettes, the WSPU and all the ensuing politics you could write on the back of a postage stamp…

What’s your simple philosophy of life?
Smile, laugh, try and be positive, it will always be alright in the end.

What’s your favourite film?
Being a self-confessed movie nut that is an impossible question to answer! Can I have one for each genre? No? Ok If I have to pick one then it has to be Lord of the Rings or T2 or Mary Poppins…

What was your first job?
I was a screen printer at a company called Buro-Stat in Ipswich. It was job I loved, quite simply because of the people I worked with. Eddie, Geggy, Lumpy, Stud, Yanky, OB1, Baldrick, Lofty, Crow, Pretty Woman, Pig, Patchy, the list of nicknames goes ever on! Legends the lot of them…

Who do you admire most?
I admire the many people who have influenced me as a person, made me a better person and made my life richer for having known them. 
The obvious ones are my family, I find them all remarkable, I have an extended family of around 60 people, we all holiday together every summer and meet for a big Christmas dinner every year. Some people would consider that a nightmare scenario but not me, it is a joy I very much look forward to. 
I am also very lucky to have a fairly large group of friends who I have known since the dawn of time, I admire every single one of them too.

What is your biggest indulgence?
Gin, tiger bread, apple crumble, A fat scotch egg….and I love pickled beetroot, I can eat a jar in one sitting!

Where is your favourite holiday destination? 
Croyde Bay in Devon. We stay in a house that is literally right on the beach, it’s stunning, as good as anywhere else in Europe.

Best day of your life?
Easy! July 16 2002. This was the day my statue of Sir Bobby Robson was unveiled by the great man himself outside Portman Road, but much more importantly it was also a monumental day for an even bigger reason. My wife Hayley was nine months and 10 days pregnant at said unveiling at 12 midday, but by 11pm she had given birth to my first son, Joseph. Days do not get better than that. 

What’s your favourite breakfast?
A big old fry up (obviously).

Favourite tipple?
Is tea a tipple? I drink that for England, in fact I have tea for blood. If not gin and tonic (any flavour)

What’s your earliest memory?
Getting lost as a three-year-old at Alnesborne Priory. I remember being scared for the first time in my life I even remember it must have been about 8pm in the summer as the sun was really low in the sky and I was blinded.

What song would you like at your funeral?
The Road to Hell by Chris Rea.

Tell us something people don’t know about you?
Before I forged a career as a sculptor of figurative bronzes, I was a senior sculptor on five series of Thomas The Tank Engine and Friends. 
I designed and sculpted around 15 character train faces and all of their expressions as well as numerous animals/creatures, landscapes and the people of Sodor (including many ‘Fat Controllers’).

What do you want to tell our readers about?
If some people are wondering what has happened with my statue of ITFC legend Kevin Beattie, it is finished and is now residing at a bronze at a foundry in East London. 
Emma Beattie (the Beat’s daughter) has seen the finished sculpt and loves it. It was due to be unveiled in May of this year but of course Covid put paid to that. 
It is hoped it will now be unveiled in spring 2021 in front of a crowd. We all felt on the statue committee that the fans were instrumental in raising funds for the Beat and therefore deserve to be allowed to witness the unveiling of the great man. 
It has all been very frustrating but that is the kind of year it has been. 
Watch this space for further developments. For more details, please visit: http://www.seanhedgesquinn.co.uk/

If you are living in Suffolk or Norfolk and have an interesting story, email gina@hallfarmfornham.com or follow Twitter: @geewizzgee1

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