Over 3 million visitors have encountered the radical transformation of Newcastle’s Grey’s Monument into the outdoor artwork The Worker’s Maypole this summer. Zoe Walker & Neil Bromwich’s colourful and celebratory artwork was commissioned by BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art for the Great Exhibition of the North.
Due to recent weather damage, the outdoor artwork will be permanently de-installed, commencing Thursday 2 August. The decision was reached, in consultation with the artists and our civic partners, following an assessment of the weather damage and a feasibility exercise on repairs.
The Worker’s Maypole was created and realised as an act of celebration to bring focus to the collective values at the heart of the North of England. The installation paid tribute to and affirmed the North East’s achievements and feats for equality.
Grey’s Monument standing in the heart of Newcastle, is a tribute not only to Charles Grey, 2nd Earl Grey who led the passing of the Great Reform Act 1832, but also as a symbol of the area’s role in supporting a fairer society. The monument became a temporary ‘worker’s maypole’ from 23 June, displaying phrases such as Leisure for All & A Life Worth Living; Eight Hour Working Day alongside the accolades of society, health, education, science, art and fellowship for all; placing at the heart of this civic space the shared principles that have been and remain significant to the communities of the North.
The worker’s maypole originally appeared in an 1894 drawing by Walter Crane, an illustrator and socialist who was a great advocate of improved employment conditions for workers in the industrial North. This image has been repeatedly employed to re-imagine the world through ideologies of equality, over the last 120 years. The worker’s maypole appears re-worked in 1924 on the Northumberland National Union of Mineworkers’ banner in a call for improved labour and living conditions. The mottos on The Worker’s Maypole 2018 all originate from Crane’s illustrations.
The response to the artwork has been hugely positive and will remain a memorable highlight of the Great Exhibition of the North. The Maypole has been a popular installation on social media with over 8,000 Instagram posts alone. The 3.6 million figure is calculated from visitors to Intu Eldon Square, 23 June-31 July.
Although de-installation begins 2 August, preparations are underway to mount a temporary display celebrating The Worker’s Maypole at BALTIC Gateshead, one of the three hub venues of the Great Exhibition of the North.
The display on BALTIC’s ground floor will include a flower from the crown of the artwork, allowing for the first time an up-close view of this ornate detail. Segments of the brightly coloured ribbons will also be hung alongside large-scale images of the transformation of Grey’s Monument and the historical Walter Crane illustration. The display will feature a short film documenting the installation and creation of the piece.