London is a massive open-air gallery teeming with thousands of statues, installations, murals, memorials, and sculptures and this month, we’re delighted to introduce a guest blog from Gina Mullett, an experienced London Blue Badge & City of London Guide. Gina’s tours and walks are always interesting, informative, and entertaining. Gina was the Take Walks Guide of the Year 2019, and a tour with her will reveal parts of London you never knew existed! We were lucky to have her guide us through the London streets from west to east to check out five of her favourites.
We start in Parliament Square (above) where we meet suffragist Millicent Fawcett, the first statue of a woman in the square and also the first to be sculptured by a woman – the conceptual artist Gillian Wearing RA. She stares out at us with her banner proclaiming Courage Calls to Courage Everywhere. The statue, erected in 2008, commemorates the 100th anniversary of women achieving the right to vote.
Walking from Parliament Square up Whitehall we come to a memorial to The Women of World War Two by John Mills. It takes the form of a cenotaph or empty tomb and depicts seventeen different uniforms representing the many occupations women undertook during the war while the men were fighting at the front: factory worker, welder, land army, police officer etc. The uniforms/work clothes are hung up as though at the end of a long day when the women have resumed their domestic and parenting duties.
We next head to Trafalgar Square and just behind the beautiful church of St Martin in the Fields we see a figure rising out of a granite sarcophagus that invites you to sit and have A Conversation with Oscar Wilde. It’s by Maggi Hambling and includes a quote by the playwright and wit from Lady Windermere’s Fan, ‘we are all in the gutter but some of us are looking at the stars’.
Time to head towards the City of London and we stop off at The London School of Economics where we see an enormous globe resting on its north axis – The World Turned Upside Down by Mark Wallinger. Visually startling with its bright colours, it asks us to see the world from a different perspective, highlighting the vastness of the oceans and the continent of Africa.
Off to the Wobbly Bridge (as Londoners call the Millennium Bridge) to see the work of the artist Ben Wilson a.k.a Chewing Gum Man which gives a clue as to his medium! With a blowtorch and acrylic paint, he creates miniature works of art on chewing gum dropped onto the bridge with subject matter ranging from views of London to abstract designs. Luckily, he’s on the bridge today and is, as always, happy to chat about his work or life in general as he creates his tiny pictures.
Our last stop is to a former churchyard near Aldersgate to see the Memorial to Heroic Self-Sacrifice which commemorates the lives of ordinary people who died while saving others. Dating from 1900 and conceived by the Victorian artist George Frederick Watts, its beautiful 54 ceramic tiles document the lives of these everyday heroes whose brave acts would otherwise have been forgotten.
London’s amazing quantity and diversity of public art enhances any time spent there by inviting us to look, learn and interact.
Words: Gina Mullett, London Blue Badge Guide.
If you are interested in a tour with Gina you can contact her by email here for more information about her wide variety of guided walks and tours both in London and out of town. Gina is always happy to put together tailored walks and tours to suit individual interests.