A third Ipswich Town statue - how fans and local business helped The Beat Go On
- Credit: Archant
Few football clubs have three statues dedicated to their past.
But the unveiling of a magnificent memorial to Kevin Beattie on Saturday, after a fundraising campaign driven by fans, is a reminder – if we needed it – of what a special football club Ipswich Town is. Sir Alf Ramsey, Sir Bobby Robson, and now The Beat.
It’s a fitting tribute to the man regularly voted the best player in the club's history, which his family are thrilled with. Sculptor Sean Hedges-Quinn has produced another fabulous piece of work.
How the campaign started
It was in September 2018 when we learned of The Beat’s sudden death.
I was working in the EADT offices, which were then at Portman House - a stone’s throw from where I’d stood as a seven-year old and watched him thump home that freekick against Bohemians Prague in 1980.
I idolised the entire team that won the UEFA Cup in 1981, they were my heroes. But particularly Beattie.
Talk of a statue quickly started among fans on social media. Beattie had regularly been voted ITFC’s greatest ever player, and as the local newspaper, we were in a position to pick this up as a campaign. We wanted to see it happen.
Some weeks later, we received the blessing of The Beat’s family, and after a few conversations with BBC Radio Suffolk’s Mark Murphy, we launched the statue campaign – The Beat Goes On.
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It was a collaborative effort led by the East Anglian Daily Times/Ipswich Star, alongside BBC Radio Suffolk and Phil Ham’s independent ITFC website TWTD. We brought in a campaign team to help make this happen - all people who like to get things done.
The response from fans was overwhelmingly positive, and donations poured in. Big donations from the Ipswich Town Independent Supporters’ Trust and Official Ipswich Town Supporters’ Club got us off to a flying start. Other fan organisations home and abroad sent money too. It was humbling.
Mark Calver and Mick Parker arranged a gala night at Greshams in Ipswich (now Venue 16) which raised nearly £20,000.
Forty miniatures of the statue were made to help raise funds, and as our costs also rose towards the end of the project, another 20 fans paid to have their names on the back of the plinth to help us get this over the line.
The design, and the challenges
But this was not a smooth journey - far from it. While Covid undoubtedly delayed things, some of our challenges stemmed from the unusual design – we wanted a ‘floating’ statue, showing The Beat leaping in the air.
Other ‘floating’ statues like this have ugly amounts of steelwork showing, but we were keen to avoid that.
Sculptor Sean Hedges-Quinn came up with a design where all the heavy lifting would be hidden inside the plinth. We brought in JP Chick structural engineers, who made it work.
On the finished statue, there is no steelwork visible, with the steel rods disappearing into The Beat’s legs, yet he is still clearly soaring into the air.
‘From the fans, for the fans’
Our entire campaign team has been fantastic, but there are a few people and organisations I want to highlight.
The front of the plinth has these words “From the fans, for the fans” - and this really captures the fact that without Ipswich Town’s supporters, and their generosity, this wouldn’t have happened.
Mark Calver, owner of MC Contracts, on the team since day one, not only helped organise a major fundraising night at Greshams, he took on the huge job of constructing the plinth and paving the area – with that work donated in kind. He has done an outstanding job.
Ipswich Borough Council got behind this early, commissioning the statue and providing the land for it, but with all the funding coming from the campaign. Without their expertise, and in particular the work of project officer Roly Arbon, this would’ve been impossible.
And the East of England Co-op has played a crucial role. As well as an early donation, it also donated the stone cladding and stonemasonry work for the plinth. So I thank Roger Grosvenor, joint chief executive, and Rob Kirk, from stonemasons HL Perfitts (part of the Co-op), for their vital support, along with their teams.
A legend remembered
Many people on the campaign team knew The Beat well – he was a good friend, or even family.
Even for those of us who didn’t, I guess we felt like we did. He always had time for fans, and I think this is one of the reasons people responded so well.
I met him only twice.
The first was as an eight-year-old boy. He did a player-visit to Britannia Primary School to cheer us on in a penalty shoot-out competition. By some fluke, I won, and there was a picture of me and The Beat in the Evening Star. I was so proud, it was the first time my picture had been in the paper.
The second was in the mid-2000s, when the EADT arranged a friendly football match against BBC Suffolk.
The BBC drafted in Beattie – how was this allowed?! His knees may not have been what they used to be, but we were in awe. Still a great player, and an honour to play against. We lost.
Every Ipswich Town fan, every business that played a part in this project, should feel proud of this statue in his memory.
You did it. We did it. The Beat goes on.