£18,000 is needed to restore the vandalised Irlam statue - which turns 40 this year
Made by a talented local schoolboy in 1978, The Man on the Bench has been admired and enjoyed by his fellow townsfolk for four decades. But 2017 saw him become the target of vandals and, with a broken leg and a heavy heart, he went ‘into hiding’.
The life-size statue underwent a 140-hour restoration only a year before, when it was moved from Irlam High to the refurbished Station House. There, it came to symbolise the Victorian station’s regeneration from a dilapidated building into a vibrant community hub; winning a new audience of commuters and visitors.
Everyone was shocked and disappointed when it was vandalised
Now, campaigners want to mark the figure’s 40th anniversary by raising enough money to recreate it - ideally in bronze, for posterity - and restore it to its rightful place on the platform.
Often thought to represent a tired shift-worker from the town’s now defunct steelworks, the figure (also known as At the End of the Day) was made by aspiring sculptor Simon Law, then just fifteen, for his O-level art exams: using clay, plaster of Paris, mesh and cloth. His other creations included a bust of Ena Sharples actress Violet Carson, which was bought by Granada Studios.
Law, now a senior design manager for John Sisk and Son, said: “I was very pleased with the way the sculpture came out, but I never expected it to be around for another 40 years.
“It looked perfect at the station, like it was waiting for the next train. Passengers saw it every day. It was like a local celebrity.
“I was devastated when I heard what the vandals had done to it, devastated. If we can recast it into bronze and make him more robust, that would be astounding.”
Now, the Hamilton Davies Trust (HDT) - the local charity which has taken guardianship of the flat-capped gentleman - hope to raise £17,950 for his recovery, and even provide him with a four-legged friend for company. Indeed, Law originally ‘imagined the man had taken his dog to the park after a hard day at work, sat on the bench watching the sun go down’.
As well as a crowd-funding campaign - in which donors also have the opportunity to name him - it has submitted a funding request to The Arts Council.
Mandy Coleman, Consultant General Manager of HDT, said: “(The Man on the Bench) is an incredible piece of art. It looks like it was created by a well-known professional artist, rather than a talented schoolboy.
“Generations of local people have loved it and then it got a whole new fan club at the Station House. It has become a kind of symbol of both Irlam’s past and how the area is being regenerated.
“Everyone was shocked and disappointed when it was vandalised. To mark its birthday, we want to recast it in bronze ideally, so it will survive for years to come.”
Donations can be made on the appeal page: www.gofundme.com/manonthebench #SaveTheManOnTheBench