What Cultural Statue Would You Erect?

Michael Jackson at Fulham, Robocop in Detroit - but who or what would you like to see immortalised in your vicinity?

This week saw the unveiling of a life-size likeness of Michael Jackson at the home ground of Fulham FC. The stupefying statue was commissioned by Fulham chairman, Mohamed Al Fayed following Jackson’s death in June 2009, and has been met with divided opinion from fans of the football club.

While the effigy has left some supporters outraged, most just seem to be plain bemused. This reaction is probably fair enough, considering that the King of Pop had little to do with soccer aside from his close friendship with Al Fayed.

The chairman, however, vehemently defends his slightly frightening sculpture, stating that, 'If some stupid fans don't understand and appreciate such a gift this guy gave to the world they can go to hell.' He also later suggested that those fans could go support Chelsea for all he cared.

Jackson isn’t the only icon to make the headlines in statue form recently. After a successful online campaign to raise funds and awareness, a 7ft tall bronze sculpture of Robocop is to be erected in Detroit, the setting of the 1987 movie of the same name.

If Al Fayed’s Michael Jackson statue has proven that a sculpted tribute can be erected with only a tenuous link to its surroundings, Detroit’s Robocop has shown that said tribute can be to somebody not only fictional, but not entirely human.

One crucial defence made by apologists for these undeniably unusual effigies is that they aim to boost tourism for their respective locales. With this in mind, is Belfast ready for its own music or movie related statue and, if so, who or what should it be based on?

If the aforementioned cases are anything to go by, the mind reels at the possibilities. A behemoth Marty McFly pointing mournfully toward the site of the old DeLorean factory, perhaps. Or Terri Hooley and John Lennon’s legendary punch-up, immortalised forever in cast bronze. Or even a drowning DiCaprio at the docks?

Nonsensical ideas, of course, but on a more serious note, perhaps it really is time for Belfast to celebrate some of its more contemporary cultural heroes in this fashion. A statue of the late Gary Moore has been proposed for the city, in the same vein as the one in Dublin of his friend and bandmate, Phil Lynott.

Not only do I think that this would be a fitting tribute to an immensely talented local icon, but it could also give the city a tourism boost. Furthermore, I believe it would be more culturally relevant (and aesthetically pleasing) than some of Northern Ireland’s current (and proposed) public art.

A statue of Gary Moore in Belfast - or others of the likes of Seamus Heaney, Liam Neeson, Ruby Murray or Sir James Galway, to name but a few, erected elsewhere across the country - would be welcome anathema to the controversial planned 19ft statue of a gun-toting UDR man in Market Square, Lisburn. Surely there are more fitting cross-community uses of public space and ratepayers’ money than this.

Belfast might not be ready (or willing) to be home to monuments of fictional cyborgs or moonwalking singers just yet, and this may be a good thing. I would argue, however, that there is definitely room to honour and immortalise our best-loved luminaries in statue form. Any suggestions?