Article by Katey Goodwin, Art UK Head of Research & Digitisation and Project Manager for The Sculpture Project. Article reproduced with the kind permission of Art UK – The Sculpture Project*
I recently found myself with a free morning in Llandudno, a beautiful seaside town on the north Wales coast. Searching for things to do in the Tourist Information Office, I discovered that the best way to explore the town on foot is by following their Alice in Wonderland Trail. This was especially interesting as the main markers on the trail are a series of sculptures and statues. As part of Art UK’s upcoming sculpture project, it is public sculptures like these which will be catalogued and photographed, and made available for free on Art UK, giving world-wide access to public art and monuments across the UK.
The connection between Llandudno and Alice in Wonderland is through Lewis Carroll’s inspiration for Alice – Alice Liddell, whose family had a holiday home in the town. The landscape is also thought to have inspired Carroll, as some local landmarks make an appearance in the Alice books. Some of the rocks on the western shore, for example, are thought to be the Walrus and the Carpenter.
I bought a trail leaflet from the Tourist Information Centre, but the trail can also be downloaded as an app. Both cost £2.99. Following the trail around the whole town would probably take a whole day and because I didn’t have time to visit every point on the map, I chose a few sculptures that would take me around the town, along Llandudno Bay and across to the West Shore. Here are my highlights:
Located in North Western Gardens in the middle of Llandudno, this large rabbit clasps his over-sized watch under his arm. His pose makes it looks as if he will run off any moment to his next appointment.
Alice herself stands on the corner of Augusta Street and Vaughan Street, and is depicted in a larger than life statue in front of a small door, having just consumed the ‘Eat Me’ cake.
The Mad Hatter sits on the sea-front on the North Shore, holding a teapot, with the dormouse by his side. This was a popular attraction on the sunny spring morning I was in Llandudno and I had to queue up to take a photograph.
This imposing statue of the Queen of Hearts, on Gloddaeth Street, depicts her in the middle of shouting ‘Off with her head!’
This lovely, big ginger cat, sitting on Gloddaeth Avenue, has a grin so large it takes up most of his face.
All of these sculptures were made by Simon Hedger, who was commissioned to create this series of characters by Llandudno Council to commemorate the 160th anniversary of Alice Liddell’s birth. They were all carved from a giant oak tree sourced in Bedfordshire.
There are many more sculptures to explore around the town, including a whole park of Alice-related sculptures in Happy Valley commissioned in 2000 as part of a National Lottery refurbishment programme. Unrelated to Alice in Wonderland, I am going to squeeze in one last sculpture – this Kashmir goat which sits on top of the Great Orme at the edge of the town.
Sculpted by Graham High, the goat was installed in 2002 at the opening of the refurbished visitor centre. It’s worth pretending to be a mountain goat and climbing to the top of the Great Orme, as on the day I was there it was so clear you could see across to the Isle of Man.
*About Art UK
Art UK (formerly the Public Catalogue Foundation), is a dynamic arts charity based in London, but with a national and global reach. Its charitable mission is to transform access to the UK’s publicly owned art, much of which is not on display, for enjoyment, learning and research. Its priorities lie in mapping art collections, encouraging public engagement with them and improving our knowledge of these collections.
Your Paintings is Art UK’s flagship website showing the nation’s entire oil painting collection in public ownership, photographed by Art UK over a ten-year period. Working closely with collections up and down the country, Art UK completed the digitisation programme in late 2012, by which point it had recorded over 210,000 paintings from over 3,000 collection venues. The website was built in partnership with the BBC. Other initiatives include Your Paintings Tagger, Art Detective and Masterpieces in Schools.
Your Paintings was replaced in early 2016 with a new, improved version of the website – Art UK. The new site is a unique and powerful digital showcase of art in the UK for audiences across the world. Go to www.artuk.org to find out more.
Art UK’s Sculpture Project will create a comprehensive photographic record of the UK’s publicly owned sculptures, arguably the finest in the world. Many of these works are hidden away, without records, images or online access. Many public monuments are not fully recorded and are at risk. The project will transform the way people access and learn about their sculpture heritage, and will allow existing, new and diverse audiences to share knowledge, exchange opinions and visit objects, both in person and online.
The Sculpture Project will be run in partnership with the Public Monuments and Sculpture Association (PMSA), the BBC, Culture Street, the Royal Photographic Society and Factum Arte. Project development is supported by the Sculpture Steering Panel consisting of sculpture experts and curators from across the UK.
The project is currently in a Development Phase, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Henry Moore Foundation and the PMSA. Art UK is working towards a second-round Heritage Lottery Fund bid and if successful, this three-year project will commence in 2017.