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Grantham artist's alternative Margaret Thatcher statue 'in poor taste'




An artist’s unveiling of his own Margaret Thatcher statue in Grantham has been described as “in poor taste” and is being investigated by police.

Mark Roberts, who lives in Grantham, placed his sculpture on top of the plinth in St Peter’s Hill at 4am on Sunday. It was gone by Monday, removed by the district council.

The plinth was placed on the green last year ready for a controversial 10ft bronze sculpture of the Grantham-born former Prime Minister. Its unveiling has been delayed by the pandemic.

The statue by Mark Robla placed on the plinth in St Peter's Hill. Photo: Ian Selby (44512791)
The statue by Mark Robla placed on the plinth in St Peter's Hill. Photo: Ian Selby (44512791)

Mr Roberts, 34, who uses the pseudonym MarkRobla, told the Journal the reaction to his statue has “put a smile” on his face.

But the statue – a plaster head with Lady Thatcher’s iconic flick of hair placed on a spike with her handbag below – has not been welcomed by Grantham Museum or South Kesteven District Council, which are working together on the statue project.

The alternative statue has made headlines around the world.

Artist Mark Roberts. Photo: Markrobla (44626612)
Artist Mark Roberts. Photo: Markrobla (44626612)

Amanda Schonhut, Grantham Museum’s fund-raising director, said she had even been contacted by Russian journalists.

Referring to Mr Roberts’ statue, she said: “I do not see this as a bit of fun. I don’t think he should have done it.

“Putting a head on a spike is in poor taste, in my view.

“It was the museum’s idea to bring the bronze statue to Grantham. We have been promoting it and raising money to bring it here, so I don’t think this is terribly appropriate.

“I think the correct course of action has been taken by the council.”

The statue sculpted by Mark Roberts. Photo: Markrobla (44572783)
The statue sculpted by Mark Roberts. Photo: Markrobla (44572783)

A spokesperson for SKDC said: “The council has dismantled the unauthorised artwork and made the area safe for members of the public. We are also liaising with the police regarding this matter.”

A spokesperson for Lincolnshire Police told the Journal: “We can confirm a crime of criminal damage has been recorded relating to damage to the plinth. We are liaising with South Kesteven District Council and will investigate any offences identified.”

Mr Roberts, who teaches art, has lived in Grantham for two years after moving to the town from his native north Wales.

He told the Journal: “At the end of the day, not that art has to be controversial, when you see this kind of reaction it’s positive to me. No matter how negative people are, it has put a smile on my face.”

The Margaret Thatcher statue by Mark Roberts. Photo: MarkRobla (44557764)
The Margaret Thatcher statue by Mark Roberts. Photo: MarkRobla (44557764)

Mr Roberts sculpted Mrs Thatcher’s face out of a block of plaster. He had intended to sculpt a full body for the display, but decided against it as it would be too heavy to place on the plinth. Instead, the head was put on top of a spike.

Mr Roberts says he has saved the council thousands of pounds by erecting his own statue. “I saved the council £400k and displayed my new piece. It depicts Margaret Thatcher’s head stuck on to a spike made from an office chair, standing at 5ft 3in on the 10ft plinth, while still clasping her iconic handbag at the base, all carved completely from plaster.

“I paid about £5 for the chair and took it apart. There were two metal poles inside which I made into a spike and the base of the chair helps balance the sculpture.

“It took about four months to complete and with materials it cost about £100 in total.”

Mr Roberts says he was not asked to remove his sculpture. He says he was able to get to the plinth because there as an opening in the fence around it.

He said: “The fence was open and I just skipped through. There was a taxi driver nearby, but that was it.”

He says his sculpture was not driven by politics but his work is about finding a task which “makes life worth living”.

“I am from North Wales and Thatcher was never loved there,” he added.

“But I am surprised here how much many people still do love her.”

Mr Roberts does not believe he had broken the law in putting his work on the plinth, which he said was the only location for the sculpture.

He said: “It simply would not have had the same reaction if I had put it somewhere else.”

A £300,000 bronze statue of the Iron Lady, by sculptor Douglas Jennings, will sit on the 10ft plinth (making it 20ft tall overall), on St Peter’s Hill green. It is being brought to the town by Grantham Museum, SKDC and the Public Memorials Appeal.

SKDC has controversially underwritten an unveiling ceremony to the tune of £100,000, but it says that the cost of the ceremony will be covered by private donations.

  • Have your say. Was the statue just a bit of fun? Should it have been removed by the council? Is a police investigation for criminal damage appropriate? Email: comment@granthamjournal.co.uk


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