Your young Portuguese columnist, Pedro Martins, deserves credit for raising the question as to the future of sculptor, Angela Conner’s water feature - commonly referred to as the ‘Shelley Fountain’.
Sadly - along with so much of Horsham’s street furniture - it’s completely phoney - having nothing to do with Percy Bysshe Shelley.
This ‘Marmite’ edifice was originally commissioned by Norwich City Council who for reasons of their own refused it. And so it made its way to Horsham to be donated to our town by a nearby supermarket as a gesture of goodwill for the council having granted planning permission to build their store on the last green field site in the centre of our Sussex market town.
The extract from Percy Bysshe Shelley’s 1817 poem ‘Mont Blanc’ was added as an afterthought to give the impression that the water feature had been commissioned by Horsham in order to celebrate the bicentenary of our town’s most famous son who was born at Field Place near Broadbridge Heath.
The fact that Shelley was an atheist, feminist and republican - who left sizeable debts with local ale houses - having been sent down from Oxford - seems to have escaped the notice of our Tory dominated District Council - anxious no doubt to show that they too were culture vultures, familiar with Shelley’s work and free-thinking lifestyle.
In tune with the poet’s radical reputation, ‘Rising Universe’ was ‘unveiled’ at a ceremony - attended by the local great and the good - in 1996 by the Left-Wing journalist and author of ‘Red Shelley’ - the late Paul Foot. And to be fair to Ms Conner, her water feature did work - on and off - for a few years but after so many failures, the cost of maintenance became prohibitive. In short, the Universe refused to Rise - and now lies in a dilapidated condition - a scar on our town’s landscape.
If we really value our town’s association with the romantic poet Shelley, why not a more conventional statue - to be erected by public subscription. Such a move would, I suggest, help offset our council’s ill-considered decision to licence the ‘The Big Kahuna’ in Holmbush Forest over this year’s August bank holiday - attracting between 7,000 and 10,000 ‘music’ lovers consuming alcohol over a period of three days. No thought, of course, for nearby residents or for the inconvenience caused by such a huge gathering. It will be interesting to see the state of the site - after the party’s over! Yet another example of our council’s philistine values - driven no doubt by market forces.
Robert B. Worley
Ayshe Court Drive,
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