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On the fourth plinth

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Margie Tunbridge Margie Tunbridge 15:56, Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Four things from Margie Tunbridge's oneandother fourth plinth appearance

Editor's note. When Margie Tunbridge wrote to Radio 4 asking for a flag to unfurl on the fourth plinth we leapt at the chance. Here she writes about the experience - SB

Like nearly every other Plinther I like Gormley's work (did he know he had so many fans?) - I've seen the Field for the British Isles several times, the exhibition which came to Tate St Ives a few years ago and other pieces by Gormley at Chatsworth House and the Yorkshire Sculpture Park. I've followed (some of) the controversies about other pieces of his work. I've been affected by his work, for example, Still IV from 1994, a cast of his daughter, aged six days, which apparently so affected the gallery attendants at Tate St Ives that they reportedly had to do shorter shifts in that room.

I had quite a difficult slot - it was 0200 to 0300 on Sunday 19th. So there was a sizable crowd in Trafalgar Square who were not terribly sober... they wanted to be entertained (is everything Britain's Got Talent?). I knew that the weekend night slots were likely to be more difficult but when you are allocated a slot your only option is to accept it or refuse it - there is no chance of swapping it. So I had decided to do it. A family member had said that the evening weekend slots were "skittles for drunks", and so it partly proved.

I had not planned to engage with the crowd. I did not 'do' a performance - I had collected together objects which represent important things to me - so I unfurled banners from Cornwall Council and the University of Exeter, both of whom work for; also Radio 4 and The Guardian which are important to me for news, arts, entertainment and so on. I also had a banner from the British Psychological Society which is the professional organisation for psychologists to which I belong.

To represent my family, friends, and colleagues, I signed pre-prepared postcards to send the next day, and put out about thirty little clay figures which I had made which were in the style of the Antony Gormley figures in the Field for the British Isles - they were a respectful nod to Gormley and another way of representing people I know.(Though a colleague wanted to know later why I had a chess game up there!)

I read three poems by Charles Causley, who was well known to my husband's family in Launceston, and taught my husband at primary school. I read The School At Four O'clock which is about the old National School at Launceston which perches on the side of the hill, under the castle. The poem has a notion of the school as a ship setting off for the day and then coming back to the harbour at the end of the day at four. I also read one about the moorland near here - Trethevy Quoit, and one I dedicated to my husband, called My Young Man's a Cornishman. He is, I'm not.

Margie Tunbridge on the fourth Plinth

I flew some paper aeroplanes which had questions and possible answers on them from psychology - when they were unfolded the answer was at the apex of the plane - I chose questions which had less obvious answers and might be surprising. I saw people with their planes discussing the answers and words.

I also had brought some food and drink with me - not a pasty, I'm afraid - I'd asked Locanda Locatelli, a very excellent restaurant which I've been to a couple of times in London, to provide me with some food which they very kindly did, and I took a half bottle of wine from a favourite place in France, and had a glass of wine.

I took a little chair and sat to read the most recent edition of The Psychologist, Educational Psychology in Practice and the book we are currently reading in my book group. I think that because I did not respond to the shouty, sweary people in the Square, and because the police and the 'Heritage Wardens' in the Square moved some of them on, in the latter twenty minutes it became quieter and calmer, and I had a better look at the Square and the people in it. Some people waved and smiled and the tone changed from the rather more combative and shouty tone of earlier in the hour.

It was an interesting and unusual thing to do - in the event it was quite hard to do. The admin team at One and Other said that there are some much easier slots to fill. They were quite concerned about how I had managed it and were keen to check I was OK when I finished. A very different experience.

Because I'd asked Radio 4 to help me they were keen to be helpful and invited me to the studios of the current affairs programme and I went to watch the Broadcasting House programme being broadcast on Sunday morning.

And why Radio 4? - because it's my nourishment and entertainment. I listen to a lot of the output either when I'm at home or in my car travelling between meetings. (Today, PM, Broadcasting House, The Archers, In our Time, Woman's Hour, Front Row, Saturday Review, Poetry Please, Material World, Thinking Allowed, Loose Ends, The Now Show, The News Quiz and so on).I quite often plan journeys to be able to listen to favourite programmes. I'm the target listener the programme makers are thinking of when they make the programmes.

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  • Comment number 1.

    Well done for having the courage to accept that difficult slot on the plinth - the prospect of a not very sober public must have been quite daunting. The fact that you then displayed the things you hold dear, including Radio 4, shows further courage.

    I am glad for you that it became calmer towards the end and love the idea of engaging people with the paper aeroplanes. That probably is the key to successful plinth appearances which must avoid egotistical tendencies as displayed by an deeply forgettable person who was suspended in a glass box somewhere near the Thames a while back.

  • Comment number 2.

    Pretentious ? Moi ?

    The plinth is great, but the despair at seeing it hijacked by people using it as a space for corporate branding from the The Guardian Media Group/BBC axis [er, since when have they needed free publicity ?? ] is annoying in a way I cannot adequately express without using the kind of language which might get me permanently banned from this fine website.

  • Comment number 3.

    @LordBeddGelert What would you have done up there on the plinth? If you were going to take things up there that were important to you, what would they be?

    Steve Bowbrick, editor, Radio 4 blog


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