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A computer generated image of the memorial to Churchill - Song (Copyright: Paul De Monchaux )

Sculptor chosen for BBC Great Britons Churchill memorial

Sculptor Paul de Monchaux has been chosen by the BBC to create a contemporary memorial to Winston Churchill.


The memorial is the culmination of the BBC TWO series Great Britons, in which the wartime leader was voted overall winner by BBC viewers in a poll to find the greatest Briton of all time.


The abstract sculpture, entitled Song, will be unveiled later this year and will tour the UK before being installed in London in a BBC building.


The memorial is funded by profits from the telephone voting for the television series, in which 1.6 million people cast votes by phone and the internet.


Song is a freestanding timber tower made from 20 interlocking units of sawn green English oak heartwood.


De Monchaux's inspiration for the shape of the memorial comes from Churchill's use of the structures of poetry and song in the preparation of his wartime messages.


Churchill's speech drafts were typed from shorthand notes in what was known by his office as 'Psalm Style' – blocks of indented text, stepping diagonally down the page – and the finished drafts were known as 'Hymn Sheets'.


The form of the sculpture takes its cue from the visual structure of the 'Psalm Style' drafts and four facsimiles of these drafts will be embedded into the top surfaces of the central tier of the memorial.


"I first saw the speech drafts in the archive of the Imperial War Museum," explains Paul de Monchaux, "and was struck by Churchill's awareness of the way in which the shape of the spaces around words can amplify their meaning.


"The text of the drafts descends the page in stepped blocks which, as they often look as though they might overlap, lead the mind back from the last phrase in a passage to the first.


"The 'Psalm Style' drafts were the highly structured scores for his great performances; the rigorous art behind the emotion."


Born in Montreal but resident in the UK since 1955, de Monchaux's proposal was chosen from a shortlist of five contemporary artists by a BBC selection panel comprising:


Susan Brades, former director, Hayward Gallery; Richard Cork, art critic and art historian; Mark Harrison, Creative Director, BBC Arts; Roly Keating, Controller, BBC TWO; Vivien Lovell, Director, Modus Operandi art consultants; Jane Root, former Controller, BBC TWO; and Alan Yentob, Creative Director, BBC.


Mark Harrison, Creative Director, BBC Arts, and executive producer of the Great Britons series, says: "Paul de Monchaux was a unanimous choice by the selection panel.


"We were all immediately engaged by Paul's response to the layout of Churchill's speeches on paper and the way in which he had translated this into a three dimensional form.


"His evocative choice of English oak and heartwood resonated with everyone.


"We also felt his idea best met the original brief of a contemporary memorial which reflected the achievements and personality of Churchill and was both celebratory and respectful.


"Song will be a worthy addition to the BBC's art collection and is in the best tradition of the BBC's patronage of the visual arts."


Winston S Churchill, Churchill's grandson, adds: "I am delighted to know that as a result of the Great Britons programme it has been decided to commission this memorial to Winston Churchill, whose wartime speeches inspired the nation and gave hope to the world in Europe's darkest hour."


The BBC has a long tradition of supporting the visual arts, including the commission of Eric Gill to create sculptures for the façade of BBC Broadcasting House in 1932 and John Piper to produce a mural for the foyer of Television Centre in 1960.


A programme of public art, including temporary and permanent works, is part of the BBC's new Media Village at White City and is an integral part of the redevelopment of BBC Broadcasting House (both in London).


The commissioning of the Churchill memorial was managed for the BBC by the art consultants Modus Operandi.


The Churchill Archives Centre, Cambridge, assisted the sculptor in his research.


The BBC is grateful to the Churchill Family in granting copyright.


Notes to Editors


Biography - Paul de Monchaux

Paul de Monchaux was born in Montreal, Canada, in 1934.


He studied at the Art Students League in New York, USA, before coming to the Slade School of Fine Art in London in 1955.


He was Lecturer in Sculpture at Goldsmiths College (1960 - 1965) and was also Head of Sculpture & Fine Art at Camberwell School of Art (1965 - 1986).


He retired from teaching in 1986 to concentrate on his sculpture.


Public commissions include sculptures for Brunswick and Oozells Squares in Birmingham; Enclosure for West Park Southampton; the Wilfred Owen Memorial in Shrewsbury; Basilica for the Crown Court in Coventry and the four Time benches at Euston station in London.


He won a Civic Trust Award with Townshend Associates for his work in Oozells Square.


Great Britons

The Great Britons television series ran on BBC TWO from 20 October to 24 November 2002.


The series launched with a public poll for people to nominate the person they thought was the greatest Briton of all time.


The top 10 (in alphabetical order) then featured in a 10-part series in autumn 2002 in which high-profile presenters including Mo Mowlam, Michael Portillo and Jeremy Clarkson argued the case for their chosen Great Briton and asked viewers to vote by phone or through


All ten Great Britons were debated in a final programme which then announced the winner.


The series captured the public imagination and generated much interest and debate.


In total 1.6 million people registered votes and the final rankings were: 1) Winston Churchill; 2) Isambard Kingdom Brunel; 3) Princess Diana; 4) Charles Darwin; 5) William Shakespeare; 6) Isaac Newton; 7) Elizabeth I; 8) John Lennon; 9); Lord Nelson; 10) Oliver Cromwell.


The Great Britons memorial

Five contemporary artists were shortlisted to submit proposals for the memorial.


No particular medium was stipulated for the commission, other than that the BBC was not seeking a conventional proposal as it was felt the UK already had the definitive Churchill figurative sculpture in Ivor Roberts-Jones' work of 1973 in London's Parliament Square.


The Great Britons memorial is funded by the profits from the telephone voting up to the final programme.


Profits from the telephone voting in the final programme were donated to BBC Children In Need.


The total budget for the memorial is £50,000, which includes materials, construction, installation, touring costs and the artist's fee.


Modus Operandi Art Consultants

Modus Operandi is an independent art consultancy which provides artistic direction and a commissioning service to its clients.

It has led the BBC Broadcasting House Public Art Programme of permanent and temporary commissions.




Category: Factual & Arts TV
Date: 30.07.2004
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