‘Real Family’ go AWOL – and may not be back
BAIRMINGHAM’S most controversial statue has been mothballed – after less than three years on public display.
The ‘politically correct’ sculpture of Real Birmingham Family cost £150,000 and was unveiled in October 2014.
Funded with money raised by the Ikon Gallery, the idea was to use a real family to illustrate Birmingham’s “cultural diversity”.
But it sparked widespread controversy because the family comprised two mixed race single mothers and their children.
Critics complained that the city should have chosen a more traditional group that contained a father.
More than 350 people had put themselves forward in a bid to become the subjects of the work by Turner Prize-winning artist Gillian Wearing.
In the end, it depicted pregnant Emma Jones, 27, and her sister Roma, 29, with children Kyan, four, and Shaye, five.
Ikon Gallery curator Stuart Tulloch said: “It was a unanimous decision that the Jones family become the subject of the sculpture.
“They are two mixed-race sisters, with happy, lively young boys, who identify themselves strongly with the city of their birth.”
Former Tory party spin doctor Amanda Platell was less impressed, writing: “To claim that they represent a typical family is crass, misleading and deeply cynical.”
Within two days of the statue being unveiled, 32-year-old Fathers for Justice campaigner Bobby Smith stuck photos of himself and his two young daughters on the artwork and threw a sheet over the other mother.
“They’ve depicted the normal fam- ily with no fathers,” he said. “This is a statue that is potentially going to be around for hundreds of years and it’s not a great thing to show young people.”
But now, the statue is being placed in storage. It has being removed from public view while work starts on the £10 million remodelling of the city’s showpiece Centenary Square – and nobody can say for sure when, and where, it might reappear after the transformation is complete.
“The Real Birmingham Family sculpture belongs to Birmingham City Council,” said an Ikon Gallery spokesman. “It has dealt with the de- installation and safe storage with Birmingham Museums Trust. We have been consulted and kept aware of the timetable of change for the refurbishment of the square.
“We look forward to seeing the newly refurbished square and A Real Birmingham Family back in place within it.”
But over at the Council House, nothing is being taken for granted.
A Birmingham City Council spokesman said: “The statue has been placed in storage while the Centenary Square works are being carried out. We are looking at possible locations for the statue once refurbishment ed.”
And that will be some way off – because public views of Centenary Square have been obliterated for at least the next year.
A 7ft tall fence now stretches from the Library of Birmingham door over to Symphony Hall, as work begins.
The new square’s central attraction will be a water feature that can be drained for event days, and the Metro line is set to be extended to Centenary Square.
It may mean that there is no longer a place for the real Birmingham family. works are complet-
> The ‘Real Birmingham Family’ statue has been removed as Centenary Square is redeveloped