Scallop scoops top award

MAGGI Hambling took a sideswipe at those who want her sculpture on Aldeburgh beach moved as her work scooped a prestigious award last night. The artist and sculptor also revealed Scallop - her tribute to composer Benjamin Britten and the beauty of Aldeburgh - had become particularly user friendly for amorous townsfolk.

By Andrew Clarke

MAGGI Hambling took a sideswipe at those who want her sculpture on Aldeburgh beach moved as her work scooped a prestigious award last night.

The artist and sculptor also revealed Scallop - her tribute to composer Benjamin Britten and the beauty of Aldeburgh - had become particularly user friendly for amorous townsfolk.

Maggi was speaking as Scallop was honoured as the first winner of The Marsh Award for Excellence in Public Sculpture, awarded by The Public Monuments and Sculpture Association.


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As she received the award from art enthusiast and raconteur Loyd Grossman at a prize ceremony at the Courtauld Institute of Art, Somerset House, in London, the Suffolk artist made reference to the ongoing dispute over the siting of Scallop.

“It was designed as a tribute to Benjamin Britten and to Aldeburgh - little did I know that Aldeburgh wouldn't be entirely grateful,” said Maggi.

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But the sculptor, who lives in Rendham, recognised Scallop did have its supporters and paid tribute to the efforts and support of Suffolk Coastal district councillor Maggy Wilson and craftsmen Sam and Dennis Pegg.

“Without Maggy Wilson and Sam and Dennis Pegg, the Scallop wouldn't be here. Maggy has been a loyal supporter for many years and Sam and Dennis Pegg actually built it,” she told guests at the ceremony.

“I first went along to Peggs, steel fabricators of Aldeburgh for 100 years, with one half of a scallop shell and said to Sam 'can you make this?

“He looked at it and said 'yes'. He paused, and then added 'how big do you want it?' I said 'about 10ft' and I shoved it into his hands. And he shoved it right back at me, which, in Suffolk terms, is as good an agreement as you can get.”

She continued: “Despite the vandalism, it is quite well used. It has the subtitle Conversation with the Sea and providing you can find a quiet moment, you can indeed sit upon it and have a conversation.

“Also, it is made in such a way that Aldeburgh's lovers can use it for a different purpose as recent evidence indicates. It is certainly a most user friendly of public sculptures.”

Dennis and Sam Pegg were also at the award ceremony. Dennis said he and his father had spent seven months working on the sculpture and had no idea that they would be in London at an awards ceremony for the best public sculpture in Britain when they actually undertook the commission.

Scallop was first conceived in late 2002 as a public celebration of the life and work of Britten, the world famous composer and one of Aldeburgh's most famous sons.

The sculpture was sited at the Thorpeness end of Aldeburgh beach after consultation with the town and district council.

Maggi said the design of Scallop was to capture the beauty of the wild nature of the Suffolk coastline as well as serving as a tribute to Britten's work.

Punched through the raised section of the steel Scallop is a line from Britten's opera Peter Grimes, which was inspired by the same wild coastline that Scallop celebrates. The line Maggi chose says: “I heard those voices that will not be drowned.”

Maggi conceived the artwork as a self-supporting structure which should be used by children to clamber on and families enjoy picnics by the sea.

It has received a mixed reaction from the townspeople but has been broadly welcomed by people of East Anglia, who have flocked to the former fishing community to see this spectacular piece on the beach.

A group of Aldeburgh residents banded together in early 2004 calling themselves The Voice of the People demanding that the Scallop be moved, saying that the sculpture ruins an area of outstanding natural beauty.

But supporters of Scallop question how that area of beach be described as an area of outstanding natural beauty when the scene is dominated by Sizewell's two nuclear power stations.

An opinion poll conducted by the EADT in January 2004 found that the vast majority of people approved of the Scallop and wanted it to stay exactly where it was. The vote was 2,163 for leaving Scallop untouched while 738 people wanted it moved.

In the last 18 months, feelings about Scallop have not diminished and it has repeatedly been the target of vandals who have covered it in paint and have daubed graffiti on it.

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