Weathervane sculpture coming to Lewisham – despite worries it will be used as a swing

Lewisham weathervane sculpture with zig-zags on pavement
The sculpture is inspired by the Lewisham flood of 1968

Lewisham town centre is to get a 3.8-metre tall weathervane sculpture – despite one councillor fearing that passers-by could use it as a swing.

The steel sculpture, which will turn in the wind, will be built next to the River Quaggy opposite the new Lewisham Gateway development.

Lewisham Council drew up plans for the sculpture to commemorate its time as London’s borough of culture last year.

But Liz Johnston-Franklin, a councillor for Ladywell, told a planning meeting last night that she feared the sculpture would attract antisocial behaviour.

The Labour councillor said: “I feel it just looks a bit exposed planted there. It almost looks like – and it’s horrible to say this – young people might swing on it. They might jump on it. All those sorts of things. And I shouldn’t say that, but those things happen.”

Barnaby Garcia, a Lewisham planning officer, said the height of the sculpture meant it would be unlikely that people would be able to swing from it. He said: “I don’t think it would really be possible for children or even adults to jump up and sort of grab it.”

One local resident, who spoke against the plans, dismissed the sculpture as “another bit of street furniture”. The woman, who did not give her name, said that planning guidelines for both London and Lewisham “talk about removing street clutter, about having open areas”.

She said: “It is one area that as you walk along you can just go ‘I don’t have to avoid anything here.’ I think in Lewisham with the amount of construction, it is just a little moment of reprieve as you go along that area.”

Lewisham High Street on Google Streetview
The sculpture will be opposite the Lewisham Gateway development (Google image from October 2022)

The proposed sculpture is described as “abstract”, with a bird seated in a boat-like object, suspended above a zigzag line, under which feet and spherical objects hang.

The weathervane is supported on a 2.6-metre pole. Black markings intended to reflect the direction of the River Quaggy will be painted on the pavement underneath and around the sculpture as part of the artwork.

Anna Reading, the artist behind the project, said the sculpture was inspired by accounts of flooding in 1968 when the Quaggy and the nearby River Ravensbourne burst their banks, leaving Lewisham’s streets under water.

She told the planning meeting: “There’s a dinghy shape in the weathervane, which is in relation to a dinghy that the mayor at the time used to deliver food to vulnerable residents.

“There are also wading feet within the design, which is in reference to lots of the accounts that mention walking through the flooded streets to check on local residents, friends and neighbours.

“I intend very much for the sculpture to be a destination for the community as well to learn about the history of the river, but also the current flood risk imposed by the boxing-in of the river in a concrete tunnel. I would highly support any planting or seating around it. I don’t think the sculpture acts instead of that.”

Johnson-Franklin overcame her doubts and voted for the proposal, along with fellow councillors Billy Harding, Carol Webley-Brown, Suzannah Clarke, Sian Eiles and Jack Lavery. Aliya Sheikh, a councillor for Lewisham Central, abstained.

LDRS logoRobert Firth is the Local Democracy Reporter for Lewisham. The Local Democracy Reporter Service is a BBC-funded initiative to ensure councils are covered properly in local media.
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