Thursday, 11 August 2022

Fans want lifesize sculpture of George Michael in village

Fans want lifesize sculpture of George Michael in village

PLANS to install a £100,000 lifesize statue of George Michael in Goring have been sent back to the drawing board.

Parish councillors say proposals put forward by fans of the late singer, which also include a two-day memorial concert, are not thorough enough.

They have also warned that some villagers are against any large-scale tributes to the pop star, who died on Christmas Day 2016.

The fans, who call themselves “George’s lovelies”, want to install a bronze sculpture of Michael seated on a sofa or bench in High Street, possibly near Mill Cottage, where he had lived since 1999. He was photographed in a similar pose for the cover of his 2004 album Patience.

The statue would be bolted to the ground to deter theft and could be chemically “aged” to colour it green.

The group has obtained a quote and concept drawings from artist Andrew Sinclair, whose sculpture of the late David Bowie is to be installed in Aylesbury, where he first performed as Ziggy Stardust.

The fans, who are led by Terry Daniels, from Milton Keynes, say the statue will be a “stunning work of art that captures the essence of George Michael and will delight local people, family, friends and fans”.

The concert would be held in Sheepcot recreation ground, off Gatehampton Road, which is owned by the parish council, in the summer of 2019.

The fans had hoped to hold it on June 23 and 24 this year — the weekend before what would have been the singer’s 55th birthday — in Gardiner recreation ground but Goring Cricket Club objected, saying their pitch would be damaged. The fans have given the parish council an “event management plan” which says that up to 2,000 visitors could attend the ticketed event, which would feature a mix of live and recorded music with a 30 sq m stage.

They would obtain an event licence from South Oxfordshire District Council, secure public liability insurance, consult the emergency services, install safety barriers and recruit a team of volunteer marshalls to guide visitors and pick up litter afterwards.

The proceeds would go to Childline, whose founder Esther Rantzen tried to organise a memorial concert at the Royal Albert Hall in aid of the charity this year but backed down after Michael’s family refused to support it.

The council says there is no indication as to whether Michael’s family approves of the statue or whether any funding has been secured and the plan doesn’t even provide the concert timings.

Councillor Catherine Hall said: “I’ve read the plan through and, while I’m not an expert, it seems rather insufficient and more of an outline with a few notes. It simply isn’t enough.

“I feel that we can’t agree anything until we know exactly what is being proposed. I’m reluctant to even agree in principle because we risk stirring up a hornets’ nest among residents. There’s a lot of resistance in the village.

“There are similar problems with the bench. There’s a budget but no information on funding or whether they’ve even approached the family for support, so essentially there’s nothing for us to consider.

“Additionally, if we were to accept the bench as a donation, we would have to take responsibility for maintaining it.”

Councillor John Wills said: “The paperwork that had to be completed for our diamond jubilee celebrations in 2012 was extensive — there were absolutely books and books of risk assessments and things like that.

“The parish clerk has had lots of people coming into our office who are against this and they’d have to be consulted.”

But Councillor David Brooker said: “Bear in mind that we’re a village with thousands of people. If five or six people pop in and moan, does that represent everyone’s views?

“It’s not the whole of the village and we should be cautious as there are many times when people cave in when one person complains.”

The council voted to ask Mrs Daniels for more information and to establish a working group chaired by Cllr Hall to handle all proposals for large public events in Goring.

Mrs Daniels said she hadn’t consulted Michael’s family but the council could do so. She had approached Sony, his record label, to request funding for the statue. She was also seeking an alternative venue for a tribute concert this summer.

She said: “It’s a bit of a chicken and egg situation with the management plan because we can’t go into much detail until we know whether we’ve got permission for the site.

“We are in talks with the district council and have been put in touch with its safety advisory group. This is going to take a lot of effort but it will be worth it.”

Thousands of Michael’s fans flocked to the village in the days after his death and the lane leading to his home was awash with flowers, candles, T-shirts and other memorabilia. Many returned in June last year, when three tribute concerts were held.

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