‘Real Fam­ily’ go AWOL – and may not be back

Birmingham Post - - NEWS - Gra­ham Young Fea­tures Staff

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

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