Who, what, where, when?

The Sock is one of the more well-known works of art in the town of Loughborough in England's East Midlands. Unveiled on the April 11th, 1998 to mixed reaction, the bronze sculpture designed by Shona Kinloch stands at one end of the market place. It is a quirky representation of the town's hosiery industry.

The Beginning

In the mid-1990s, plans were afoot to bring the sleepy market town of Loughborough kicking and screaming into modern times. A major redevlopment of the town centre was planned, including large areas of pedestrianisation, and attracting major shops into the area.

In order to commmemorate this plan, it was decided that a piece of sculpture would be placed in front of the town hall, depicting the town's history. A brief to that effect was placed in the November 1996 edition of the Artist's Newsletter.

The shortlisted proposals were put on public display in March 1997, and The Sock was chosen by a panel of judges, not only for aesthetic qualities, but for very practical reasons, since this piece would appear in a busy location, being passed and touched and probably climbed on during its hopefully long active life.

Although other pieces were more popular with the public, none had an overall majority vote. The Sock shone through easily as the most durable and practical offering, being decidedly weather- and vandal-proof. It also fitted the brief most closely, not only depicting the hosiery industry, but with other interesting historical scenes depicted around its base.

Appearance

The sculpture itself is cast entirely in bronze and depicts a lifesize stylised man, sitting atop a cylindrical plinth. He is naked and sitting naturally, barring a single patterned sock on his outstretched left leg, and a fig leaf in the appropriate place.

Around the base of the plinth are various locally significant pictures such as bells (for John Taylor's Bell Foundry), the Grand Union Canal and the University.

Public Reaction

Given the slightly abstract nature of the piece, and the obvious humour with which is was created, it's not surprise that there was a minor public outcry on its unveiling - Loughborough is incapable of major outcry in my experience. The older generations were put off by its very modern approach - they accused it of making the town a laughing stock.

The younger generation who might have liked its quirkiness and modern design were not the sort of people who cared much for official civic artwork. And so the sculpture was quite unloved for some time.

The fact that it cost £23,000 of taxpayers money didn't help matters.

The Test of Time

Despite its early problems, however, the sculpture has now become a well-loved member of the community - a welcome sight to ex-pats as they re-enter the town centre after time away. It's a good meeting point, and the quirkiness and fun have prevailed over previous negative feelings.

Its ability to handle weather and vandalism has been proven also. It has, at the time of writing, stood unscathed for over six years - unlike the young boy extracting a thorn from his foot who has been stolen several times from his position in front of the town's central library.

Location

The Sock is located at N52°46.260 W001°12.399 (WGS 84) SK536195 (British OS Grid)


Sources:
http://www.charnwood.gov.uk/20/6053.html
http://www.andyreedmp.org.uk/index.php?portalid=8&areaid=0&pageid=528

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