TIME TICKS ON BUT CLOCK STAYS STILL
FOR 16 years Andy Plant’s giant steel clock wowed shoppers as it split apart to reveal a bizarre world of skeletons, devils, cuckoos and angels.
Children would gawp openmouthed as their parents pointed at the 30ft tall structure as it collapsed and billowed smoke before them.
It was created for the Ebbw Vale garden festival but came to dominate Newport’s John Frost Square until 2008.
Then the £100,000 timepiece vanished.
“Before I made it, I looked at all the grand buildings in Newport because Newport has some very nice old buildings,” 62-year-old Andy said.
“I settled upon the triumphal arch, that is what it was based on.”
The dad-of-one decided his arch would be collapsible.
“I could not give you the exact thought process I went through,” he said.
“I had two ideas. One was a giant fish and inside were some dancing skeletons. That was like the people had been swallowed by the fish. And the other was the collapsible clock.
“They went for In the Nick of Time.
“It was a nice commission to do,” he said.
“I needed to take the council through it to get the full idea across.”
There were only 12 weeks to build the clock. Then it had to be displayed.
“If there is enough time I’ll build the whole project, but this time I employed a local engineering firm to do the workings,” Andy said.
“So all we were doing was building the mechanical figures inside. Everything was ready to go in terms of design by Christmas time.
“There were three months to construct it in, so it was a speedy project.”
There were about 10 people working on it.
“I had a two-storey old mill in Hebden Bridge which I was making it in,” Andy, from Sheffield, said.
“I had to take the floor out upstairs and have it coming through.”
The first 12 feet of the clock was constructed elsewhere.
Andy was dealing with the top 18 feet, which housed the moving parts.
“It was a bit of a moment when we did the first collapse because we were not quite sure it would fit, but it all fit fine,” Andy said.
“It went great, like clockwork. Then we installed it at Ebbw Vale before we reinstalled it at Newport.
“That was quite exciting because we had to get it into John Frost Square, but there was only one narrow street in.
“We had it on an articulated 40ft lorry and could not turn it out of the narrow street.”
A crane had to be brought in to lift the trailer and clock into the square. Then it was reattached to the truck inside the square and towed into place.
“It had a great response, it was generally very well received,” Andy said.
“But you can never please everyone; it was not everyone’s cup of tea.
“Lots of people would gather on the hour so it became quite well known.”
“Newport’s was probably the most ambitious one I’ve done,” he said.
“What with the weight of moving metal. There were several tonnes moving on the hour.”
The artist was “very pleased” with it.
“It was the idea of this pompous edifice and then it collapses and it turns out there are little figures inside controlling it all. “That all is not what it appears.” In 2008 In the Nick of Time was removed for the redevelopment of John Frost Square. The plan was to put it in stor
age before reassembling has built clocks across it as it was. It was not to be.
“After that they thought: ‘We cannot really afford to have it refurbished because of what it cost’,” Andy said.
“So they decided to put it on a roundabout.”
And it has remained on a roundabout in Llanwern since 2015.
It no longer opens. No smoke pours out. No angels, devils or cuckoos can be seen.
“It’s quite nice that they didn’t just decide to scrap it completely,” Andy said.
“But the whole point was that it moved.
“To have it as it is, it is not as it is meant to be. “It’s not meant to be just static.” He understood councils are “strapped for cash”.
“That is the reality of the world,” he said.
“It had a good innings, it was there for 15 years.”
He didn’t know how much would cost to bring it back to life.
“I am resigned to it being as it is,” he said.
“Because that is the reality of the situation.
“It had its day and it was good while it lasted.
“It’ll be a thing people talk about in the future: ‘Do you remember that clock that collapsed?’”
Newport council said the clock became prone to breakdowns.
“Repairs became increasingly challenging and costly due to its unique construction,” a spokeswoman said.
“Eventually, the clock remained in situ as a static sculpture and working timepiece.
“In preparation for the planned new city centre shopping centre, the clock was removed from John Frost Square and placed into storage.
“In 2015, it was installed as a timepiece and static sculpture on the roundabout gateway to the Glan Llyn development in partnership with St Modwen.” it
The clock which was once the centrepiece of John Frost Square in Newport city centre is now ticking away on a roundabout on the Queensway near Llanwern, Newport