Fountain creator calls for it to be ‘torn down’

JPCT-24-02-12 Bishopric, Horsham S12090189a -photo by Steve Cobb ENGSUS00120120224152624
JPCT-24-02-12 Bishopric, Horsham S12090189a -photo by Steve Cobb ENGSUS00120120224152624

The creator of Horsham’s Shelley Fountain has called for it to be ‘torn down’ in its current ‘appalling’ state.

Sculptor Angela Conner, who made the ‘Rising Universe’ in the Bishopric, told the County Times that either the council should fix it or it should be scrapped following debate over the fountain’s future.

She described being appalled at the current ‘dirty’ state of the water feature, which has been out of action since early last year, when she visited the town recently.

Angela said: “Looking the way it does I would be absolutely for it to be destroyed.

“It looks absolutely frightful. It’s a real eyesore.”

She added: “Given the facts I was given and given the look of the thing now, I would say tear it down today. It looks appalling.”

The water feature was unveiled to commemorate the bicentenary of the birth of Percy Shelley, but has broken down on numerous occasions since, and has provoked heated debate about its future in the town in recent years.

At a meeting in August with Horsham District Council officers Angela said she was told it cost the council £43,000 in annual maintenance last year.

But at her own expense she employed an expert to have a look at it, who claimed all it required was a pipe costing around £10 to be installed and half a day’s labour to fit it.

She explained: “All that’s wrong with the thing at the moment is this flexible pipe. Totally innocently they have used the wrong pipe.”

But she feels the council has neglected it in order to boost the case for getting rid of it.

Angela added: “The whole thing was made for joy and pleasure and space for people to meet. It was never supposed to be a political pawn.”

Asked if she minded persistent criticism of the sculpture, she said: “Have you ever heard of a piece of music or poetry that’s been loved 100 per cent?

“Architecture is the same. Some people rave over it and some people say it’s an eyesore.”

When she visited the town and saw the state it was in ‘she could not believe it’, and compared the static fountain to a motionless ballerina. She explained: “She might have pretty legs but it’s not quite enough.”

It if were to be removed from Horsham she hoped a new home could be found for it somewhere else.

A spokesperson for Horsham District Council said this week: “The Rising Universe, more commonly known as the Shelley Fountain, has been in situ as a piece of public art since the late 1990s. The fountain works using a hydraulic process which requires regular maintenance. The council has invested on average a little over £1,000 per month since 1998 to run and maintain the fountain.

“Major retail development at the western end of the town centre, has given us an opportunity to redesign the Bishopric area to make it more vibrant, improve economic performance and enhance the overall pedestrian experience.

“Not all of the ideas that are being developed include a piece of public art. However, there are options to either keep the Rising Universe, or commission a new single piece.

“When the time comes for us to make recommendations for the area, we will take into account feedback from residents and consider how best we enhance the environment and transform the landscape.

“We will also take into account the current costs to run and maintain the water features in the Bishopric area - the stream, the waterfall and the fountain - which currently stand at around £43,000. These costs include maintenance, repairs, electricity and water.

“We are mindful of the importance of the Rising Universe, and we therefore met with Angela Conner at the outset to share our thoughts with her, and work closely with her as we discuss plans for the area.’’

A public display on plans for improving the Bishopric area of the town centre will be held from Thursday October 16 to Saturday October 18 from 10am-4pm.

HDC officers will be on hand to answer questions and take feedback at unit eight on the north side of the Bishopric. There will also be a display in Swan Walk Shopping Centre outside Wilkinson from October 19 to 28.