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The Angel of the North: if the hat fits...

Posted by Jonathan Broom on 31 December 2018
Related property: Lucker Hall
The Angel of the North: if the hat fits...

If you’re driving north on the A1 to enjoy a holiday at Lucker Hall, there is one unmissable landmark that tells you that you’ve just over 53 miles to go until you reach your destination: the Angel of the North (at top).

Unmissable, in the sense that you can’t miss it; but also in the sense that it shouldn’t be missed. If, during your holiday in Northumberland, you find yourself anywhere near Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Gateshead or Durham, make time to visit this iconic sculpture.

Begun in 1994 and completed in 1998 at a cost of £800,000, what is probably Sir Antony Gormley’s most famous work is a steel sculpture of an angel, 66 feet tall with a wingspan of 177 feet. The wings are slightly angled in, to create what the artist called “a sense of embrace”.

Built on Birtley Hill, the Angel of the North marks the site of a coal mine, productive for 200 years; and is intended to convey the transition from the industrial to the information age, and to serve as a focus for our evolving hopes and fears.

Due to its exposed location, the sculpture was constructed to withstand winds of over 100 mph. It was made in three parts, then brought to its site by road. The components were transported in convoy—the body on a 48-wheel trailer—from Hartlepool where they were manufactured, up the A19 to the installation site 28 miles distant; the night-time journey took five hours and drew big crowds.

Like most icons, the Angel of the North aroused controversy to begin with, including a “Gateshead stop the statue” campaign. However, it is now considered to be a landmark for North-East England.

And even the butt of a joke or two. The sculpture is known by some local people as the ‘Gateshead Flasher’, because of its location and appearance – and, as Christmas 2018 approached, was seen to be sporting a Santa hat, after a group of merry pranksters (on their seventh year of trying) managed to place the festive titfer upon the Angel’s head.

“We really wanted to do something people might find uniformly enjoyable,” said one of the unnamed group, “something that might bring people together.” Another said that he had spent £90 on fabric to make the hat, putting it together with the help of his girlfriend, and his grandma’s sewing machine. “Someone said... it’s just a couple of drunk kids,” he added. “Drunk folk don’t usually carry around 25-foot hats in their pocket.” Gateshead Council refrained from comment; but passers-by said they were delighted at the festive gesture.

One hopes Antony Gormley would be, too. The Angel of the North is, after all, art for the people. Whether you like it or not is subjective; but personally I think it’s a masterpiece.

Hat or no hat.

Jonathan Broom

Jonathan Broom

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