FANS of The Jam travelled from all over the country to see a £45,000, 7.7 ton tribute to Woking’s famous musical sons unveiled at the New Central development in the town.
The three-pronged sculpture made of oak – called The Space Between – was officially opened by the band’s former drummer Rick Buckler. His first impression of the structure, which stands nearly 20 feet tall, was “quite striking”.
Fans and council officials gathered in the rain as Rick – aided by a giant crane – pulled the cover off the sculpture at the £250million development of flats by Barratt Homes in Guildford Road.
The public art was designed and built by Richard Heys in his East Sussex studio before being installed in Woking as a tribute to the band formed by singer and guitarist Paul Weller, bass player Bruce Foxton and Rick in the 1970s.
They went on to have a string of hits including Going Underground, Start!, Town Called Malice and Beat Surrender.
Richard spent 15 months developing ideas with around 130 pupils from Woking College, Woking High School, St John the Baptist School and Bishop David Brown School (formerly Sheerwater School where The Jam formed).
After the unveiling Rick told the News & Mail: “I think it looks great because at the back you’ve got this high tech building that’s all straight lines but the sculpture isn’t. It’s very striking.
“If you look at it from different angles it changes and, of course, residents in the flats will be able to look at it from above which will be interesting.”
Fans came from as far afield as Dublin, Nottingham and Kent to see get a first glimpse of the sculpture and the drummer added: “I’m surprised so many people turned up to see it unveiled but that’s Jam fans all over, they’re still so dedicated.”
He also paid tribute to those behind the sculpture, saying: “Usually these kind of things come from within the music industry so it’s great that this is in Woking itself and the council was involved – and especially the kids from the local schools, including our old school.
“The whole way it was put together was fabulous, getting local people involved in it, and it’s going to be there a long time.”
Artist Richard said the three monoliths will weather to a silver grey colour in a couple of years and added: “I like to make art that is something you can build a relationship with, so I’d urge people to just walk around the sculpture and see it from different sides and I hope it speaks to you.”
Weller and Foxton were not at the ceremony but Weller said: “I’m proud that the Jam has inspired this great piece of artwork for Woking.
“It’s an honour to have this in my home town and to know all the hard work that has gone into making this special. Thank you to everyone involved who has made this possible.”
Foxton added: “I’m extremely proud to have been part of The Jam and would like to thank all the people involved in honouring us with this sculpture.”
Woking Borough Council chief executive Ray Morgan was also at the unveiling and praised Barratt Homes for funding the tribute.
He said: “The development is a major improvement in this part of the town centre and we’re hoping for many more Barratt developments to come – any more investment is welcome.
“In these rather challenging times you also need to invest in people’s recreation time, art and culture, and sadly some councils and businesses have stopped and that a sadness to me.
“We think the Jam is something worth celebrating. We think just recognising the contributions of people to this town is an important thing to do.”
Barratt Homes Southern Counties managing director John Fitzgerald added: “We’ve been working on New Central for two years and when we thought about what we could do as a centrepiece The Jam came up straight away.
“Richard has taken inspiration not only from The Jam but lots of local schoolchildren. It’s a real community project. It’s a delight to be able to fund public art of this nature and put something back into the community where we build.”
The new triple monolith tribute to The Jam was given a universal welcome by fans – although not all were enamoured by the sculpture itself.
“I have to admit to being slightly underwhelmed but I’ll have to have more of a look,” said Danny Plunkett, who had travelled from Dublin to see the artwork unveiled.
“But it’s about time something was done to recognise The Jam, I wondered when this would happen. They should put up a blue plaque in Stanley Road (Paul Weller’s childhood home and the title of a solo album) next.”
Steve Kerr, from Nottingham, added: “It’s just three logs really isn’t it? I suppose it refers to all of The Jam which is good. People always associate The Jam with Woking so it’s good that it’s here right in the centre.”
Ian Snowball, from Maidstone, Kent, said: “I’m glad they’ve done it, and they’ve got the numbers right…”, but Barry Pearson, also from Kent, was more positive. He said: “I think it’s a fantastic piece of abstract art that represents The Jam’s free spirit.”
Martin Carroll, from Camden, said: “It’s different isn’t it? Although I knew it would be abstract, I didn’t know what to expect. It does symbolise the trio of The Jam and it’s great to have something here in Woking to recognise The Jam.”
Billy Sullivan, lead singer with The Spitfires, from Watford, said: “It shows there were three of them I suppose…”
Promoter of Wake Up Woking, Vic Falsetta, added: “It’s great that The Jam have been honoured in Woking and the three figures will now live on for ever. I’d love to speak to the artist to discover more about his inspiration.”
Peter Gordon, from Eagle Radio, was also pleased with the sculpture, saying: “It’s high time we paid due respect to one of the best bands to come out of Britain. I’m delighted that the guys here at Barratt and Woking Borough Council have done this. It’s a fantastic piece of art that people will see every day and remember what Paul, Bruce and Rick have done for Woking.”
Ray Morgan said: “It should instigate a reaction from people – that’s what is important about public art, it stimulates reactions one way or the other. It’s like the Lightbox Gallery – some people love it and some people hate it, but it still surprises me that some people haven’t gone in it!”
Last word goes to Rick who said: “I think it looks great. Much better than a statue of us – that would have filled me with dread. That would have been a mistake.”