'Bring on the concrete sheep!' says our resident curmudgeon Adam Edwards
PUBLISHED: 10:56 11 March 2014 | UPDATED: 10:56 11 March 2014
Cirencester's roundabouts are shabby and boring - it's time to cheer them up with some appropriate art, says Adam Edwards
Ever since Cirencester’s inner ring road was built in 1975 there have been complaints about its roundabouts. They are boring, overseen by a town council with the imagination of a turnip. In 40 years nobody seems to have had a single decent idea on how to cheer them up. Elsewhere in the country local councils have introduced floral clocks of primulas, petunias and pansies, fountains and busts of civic dignatories. In London the Shepherd’s Bush roundabout has a 15-metre high barometer, in Cardiff there is a huge pyramid made of road signs at its main road junction while the city of Rotterdam has a fat lady made of foam sitting on a hamburger (that’s the Dutch for you).
But Cirencester, the capital of the Cotswolds and home to the most famous agricultural university in the UK, has managed nothing except scrubland. It’s pathetic.
And then came Christmas and with it, finally, a solution to the town’s roundabout problem. A clapped-out red hatchback covered in police tape has been abandoned in the centre of the A429 Burford Road roundabout since the festive season. No owner has reclaimed it and the police and the Gloucestershire Country Council are, as I write, still disputing which organisation is responsible for carting away the motor.
It should not be removed. It is showing the way after four decades of roundabout blandness. The council should celebrate the car by having a bronze made of it and placing it on a plinth. For the abandoned hatchback is as iconic to Cirencester as Greggs is to Sunderland. A rusty, underpowered, runabout left derelict by a Cirencester Agricultural student is as much part of the town’s furniture as the war memorial and the Friar Tuck Fish and Chip Shop. A monument of the wreck would give a flavor of the town’s agrarian roots and I have no doubt make the national press.
There is talk of a new deal between Cirencester Town Council and Gloucestershire County Council to finally do something about the roundabouts but so far the most ambitious plan is that “instead of cutting back the grass twice a year to take on more regular maintenance to enhance its appearance”.
Well I’m not sure that’s going to bring in the punters.
What the roundabouts need in addition to the ‘Ag student’s hatchback’ are other objects that reflect the town and its surrounds. Cirencester was once the second largest city in Roman Britain and has a museum dedicated to all things Roman so perhaps a bronze of John Cleese, dressed as Reg from The Life of Brian, with the inscription “What Have The Romans Ever Done For Us?” might work. (It can’t be worse than Swindon’s statue of Diana Dors.) Another thought was a casting of an enormous glass of Waitrose white wine and nibble of smoked salmon – it is, after all, the fuel of the Cotswolds gentry.
Other ideas that have been suggested to me are a collarless black Labrador (why is it considered fashionable in our hills to own a gun dog without a collar? On a recent shoot I attended owners were shouting names at the dogs, who were huddled together like a tray of black puddings, trying to identify their beasts). A giant pair of green Wellington boots would also cheer up a local road junction as would a bronze of a Jilly Cooper novel.
More seriously, why has nobody ever asked Westonbirt Arboretum to landscape the ring road? A rich variety of rare and unusual trees encircling the town would not only look wonderful but also disguise much of the ugliness of the dual carriageway.
This month Cirencester has introduced its first March Hare Festival. A score of five-foot high painted hares dotted about the place are adding a spring-like charm to the Capital of the Cotswolds. And while the concept is not as particular to Cirencester as the Gromit Unleashed sculptures were to Bristol last year the moon-gazing Jack Rabbits still have a Cotswold resonance.
But perhaps next year the town council, businesses and local businessmen could sponsor a number of Cotswold artists to do a collection of original painted sculptures of the Cotswold Sheep. Our local sheep, often referred to as the Cotswold Lion, was introduced by the Romans and has played a major part in the development of our area. The town has a wool market and a Sheep Street. The wealth of the local wool merchants funded the rebuilding of the nave of the parish church, often referred to as the Cathedral of the Cotswolds, while the profits from wool also provided a grammar school and founded many local charities. And furthermore, the sheep sculptures would probably be, to some anyway, preferable to a bronze of an Aggie’s broken down wheels.
This article by Adam Edwards is from the March 2014 issue of Cotswold Life.