Civic Spaces at Christmas Time

Last year at Christmas time the Cornhill in Ipswich was a public space that, although newly refurbished, was a cluttered muddle.

The Cornhill, Ipswich – December 2018. The Christmas tree squeezed in next to the new sculptural installation – The Plinths.

The splendid Town Hall and Corn Exchange was dressed with lights and the traditional, tall Christmas tree was erected, but any civic grandeur was lost with an ill-considered large new sculptural artwork and an additional seasonal shopping marquee plonked in the middle of the concourse.

During the course of 2018 there had been an extensive remodelling and refurbishment of the Cornhill as part of £3.6 million revamping of the town centre. Previously in front of the Town Hall the old paved pedestrian area that hosted the market stalls had sloped down towards the Town Hall. These stalls have now been moved to a pedestrian street to the side of the Town Hall, whilst to the front the Town Hall most of the sloping concourse has gone to be replaced with steps and a level area with a pavement fountain arrangement. Surprisingly and pleasingly, the new steps provided a good vantage point to view the youngsters participating in the Global Strike that took place earlier this autumn.

Global Strike, 20 September 2019

And, incidentally, whilst enjoying the passion and energy of the striking youngsters, I noticed the less than impressive sculpture ‘The Plinths’, often referred to by the locals as Cornhenge, was no more. It had not been well received (that’s a polite understatement) and despite costing in the region of £45,000 (according to the local paper), it has been removed. Its departure has left us with a clear view of the Town Hall and a more grand and impressive yet welcoming civic space.

Of course, with the sculpture gone it has also meant that the purely functional and expedient move to squeeze in more retail opportunities into the area (for example that seasonal Christmas marquee) have also been dropped.

However, we do not get off that lightly. In what looks like a last minute desperate decision the marquee has been squeezed into Lloyds Avenue.

Seasonal Christmas marquee crammed into Lloyds Avenue, Ipswich.
Bit of a tight fit.

One positive thought for this seasonal period is at least Ipswich doesn’t yet suffer from the faux Christmas Markets that have sprung up round the country in a pale imitation of the traditional community Weihnachtsmärkte of Germany.

That’s enough of the complaints, Scrooge has left the building, and instead let’s feast our eyes on a very attractive display of lights decorating the Town Hall.

Or, take an evening stroll down the Buttermarket with its eclectic architectural mix of buildings enhanced by an elegant display of Christmas lights.

Author: agnesashe

Artisan, blogger and passionate East Anglian working from home.

14 thoughts on “Civic Spaces at Christmas Time”

  1. Great photos and story, giving an interesting account of the changes that take place in public spaces as politicians and bureaucrats come and go. I especially love your reference to the “plonking” of the marque and cluttering. My wife is a Landscape Architect and the same criticisms are made by her often when speaking of the lack of aesthetic appreciations by politicians and bureaucrats.

  2. Those Christmas lights give a bright and festive atmosphere. Made me wonder what time it gets dark in Ipswich at this time of the year. Being summer here, we lack that particular ambience. The sculpture was definitely out of place, (and uninspiring) but I wonder how the sculptor felt at such a poor reception.

    1. Mmm, regarding the sculptor I couldn’t actually find anyone person named and most of the press reads as though it was a ‘committee decision’. There were so many things wrong with it on a practical as well aesthetic level, I find it hard to believe that a professional artist made it. Yup, we are just through the winter solstice and it’s getting gloomy around 3.30/4 ish depending on the weather. Plenty of dark skies and rain recently and more flooding in various parts too. Mind you we are all watching with shock and sadness at the fires sweeping across your part of the world. Hope you and yours are safe.

      1. The fires are horrendous, and that’s coming from someone who is well-used to them. We have had no significant rain for two or three years, so everything is tinder dry. I never did finish writing about my road trip in March. Had I done so, I would have uploaded some photos demonstrating the extent of the problem.
        Bush-fires normally break out around January. This season started in August across all eastern states, and has continued, now also encompassing South Australia and Western Australia. Firefighters – volunteers! – are exhausted. Emotions are high.
        I have several friends who have received alert text notices, and/or have been put on stand-by to evacuate. Many others are dealing with ash fallout. Personally, we are not threatened, but the smoke is a hazard. I almost wrote a blog post about it the other day but decided I would get too political. I’d woken that morning to a complete white-out, and was tempted to post the photo.
        The day I went to Annandale and had a “wake” for Lord Beari, I went on to an outdoor function where I did inhale some of the smoke. It took several days to clear my lungs.
        The BBC did a really good summary of the situation. You may have seen it.
        Anyway! I take this moment to wish you a Merry Christmas and all the best in 2020 xx

      2. And, wishing you a most positive and hope-filled outlook for the New Year.
        I don’t think people in the UK can really understand the extent and ferocity of the fire or the extensive smoke damage. I have seen the BBC reports, and it is everyday folk retelling their own stories that has the most impact. You and your friends experiences add to these reports to confirm the reality of what’s happening.
        In the past year I have read several novels, written by Australians, about drought and living in the hard-hit farming communities. All of the novels, whatever their main plot, seem to confirm Broede Carmody’s article suggesting that fears about climate change are/have influenced Australian fiction. I have asked myself how can this current situation not influence everybody, despite the climate change denying spin from certain politicians. Keep safe in 2020, Agnes xx

      3. Our Prime Minister carried a lump of coal into Parliament, waved it around, and told people ‘This is coal, don’t be afraid of it.’ I’m not so much afraid of coal, I’m afraid of our ruling party’s non-policy on climate change. Yes, many Australian novels are reflecting what our society is concerned about. Obviously the politicians don’t read.
        As for putting the fires out, I saw a Facebook post from France querying why it is so hard and explaining how they do it there. They don’t understand the terrain and the nature of our fires.
        I spoke to my brother in the Barossa Valley of South Australia this morning. He was preparing in case of evacuation. High winds and 44’c is a bad combination. The vineyard that he worked at last season burnt out a week ago.
        And you may know the label Henschke? They are currently assessing what they have left, and whether any vines will regenerate or are gone completely.
        It’s awful.
        Let’s hope 2020 holds some hope of positive action.

      4. Oh how awful, so sorry to hear about people’s livelihoods under threat too. I know politicians are viewed as shortsighted, but now it seems as if they are actually blind. It’s just not incompetence, it’s taking energy to wilfully ignore the evidence. Personally, I agree with Dutch court’s decision to uphold a historic legal order on the Dutch government to accelerate carbon emissions cuts. The world over there needs to be maximum pressure on the current clutch of ‘business as usual’ politicians to begin taking ACTION now. Like you, I am hoping for this to happen in 2020.

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