It was 27 years ago and one of the first radio programmes I made for BBC Radio Scotland was about statues. It wasn’t the most audio-friendly idea I’d ever come up with, because those ‘blokes on blocks’, as I called them didn’t have much to say for themselves. But I soon discovered that plenty of other people had lots to say about them. Among my interviewees for the series was Scottish sculptor Sandy Stoddart who argued that statues should provoke debate and argument. It was, he said, proof that they were still important pieces of art. All the better, he argued, if people felt so strongly about a statue that they wanted it torn down.
He was referencing what had happened in the former Soviet Union, especially in Ukraine, where hundred of statues of Lenin were toppled and dragged to the rubbish heap. In Russia many statues of Lenin and Stalin can be viewed in special museums and that, to me, seems like a good solution for our own blokes on blocks that we no longer want to see in public places. Shove them in a museum and place them at eye level so that we can admire the skill artistry of the sculptor and read why the blokes immortalised in bronze or granite no longer deserve their place on a plinth.
And just think what you could do with a public space the size of George Square in Glasgow. Clear it of all that sculpted clutter and city planners could finally realise their dream of creating a modern civic gathering place. That was the plan put forward eight years ago, but it was rejected after public outrage. Eight years ago, people wanted to keep the statues.
Funny old thing, public opinion. It keeps changing.