TIME TICKS ON BUT CLOCK STAYS STILL

Wales On Sunday - - NEWS - JAMES MCCARTHY Re­porter james.mccarthy@waleson­line.co.uk

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.”

Andy Bri­tain.

“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

PIC­TURES: JAMES DAVIES

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

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