Edward’s Elephant arrives in Kirkby!

Published on: Wednesday, 20-May-2015

Standing three metres high in an 11 metre-long Viking boat, the stunning Edward’s Elephant is the spectacular new focal point of Kirkby town centre.

The unique piece of public art is being installed in the town centre this week. It was welcomed to Kirkby this afternoon (Wednesday 20 May) by pupils at Kirkby CofE Primary School.

Enthusiastically embraced and inspired by schools and community groups, the artwork celebrates Kirkby’s history and the poetry of Edward Lear.Edward's Elephant arrives in Kirkby

Local school children and community groups have been involved throughout the process, from developing the initial ideas to creating accessories for the finished piece.

Residents wanted the boat to represent Kirkby’s past as a Viking settlement, while the elephant – known for its memory – was important to them in remembering the town’s history and how it was created.

The elephant is also inspired by Lear’s poetry: “The enthusiastic elephant who ferried himself across the water with the kitchen poker and a new pair of earrings.”

Lear’s links with Knowsley date back to 1832, when he was invited to draw the Earl of Derby’s menagerie of animals at Knowsley Hall.

The Asian elephant has been made of cold forged steel and weighs around a tonne and a half. As in the poem, it wears earrings and holds aloft a kitchen poker. The boat it stands upon is 40cm high and over 11m long.

Local school children and community groups have created messages and memories to be carried on the boat as cargo, in which local people reminisce about moving to, and growing up in, Kirkby.

People are also creating eye-catching jewellery and accessories for the elephant to wear.

The artist, Geoff Wood of Working pArts worked closely with Kirkby schools and local community groups to develop the idea. They told him they wanted a piece of art which was striking, ambitious, attractive and reflected the Kirkby sense of humour.

The piece was built by Brian Fell at his studio at Yorkshire Sculpture Park.

‘Edward’s Elephant’ is the second of three pieces of public art to be installed in Kirkby, following the eye-catching cast of Knowsley’s oldest tree. Three thrones with wings will follow later this summer.

The total cost of the three pieces of public art is £320,000, with funding from Tesco and other external sources.

Knowsley Council’s Cabinet Member for Leisure, Community and Culture, Cllr Eddie Connor, said: “’Edward’s Elephant’ is an absolutely spectacular and original piece of public art which will really get people talking about Kirkby.

“So many of my fellow Kirkby residents have been involved throughout the process, from suggesting ideas in the early consultation sessions to creating accessories for the elephant. This art really does belong to them. It reflects their passion for Kirkby and the town’s rich heritage.”

Artist Geoff Wood said: “I wanted Edward’s Elephant to reflect the warmth and humour that I have encountered in Kirkby.

“To create the image I took a historical reference from the 19th Century limerick writer and artist Edward Lear and brought it up-to-date in three dimensional form.
 
“I hope that people will see it as a friendly and fun presence in the town and will use it as a meeting place.”

For more information about public art in Kirkby, click here. You can also check out our short films about Edward’s Elephant here.