“ Address: St Helens / Merseyside / England „
Located just off Junction 7 of the M62 between Liverpool and Manchester, Dream is an artwork that was first launched on May 31st 2009. It takes the form of a female head with eyes closed, as if in a dream. She stands 20m high (the same height as the Angel of the North in Gateshead) and can be seen from both the M62 motorway and the link road that leads from there into St. Helens. It was done as part of the Channel 4 Big Art Project and the programme received a great number of viewers when it first aired.
To access it and view the head from close up, there is parking available (although not much) in Sutton Manor, following signs for 'Dream', and from there it's a short pleasant walk up to the sculpture. It's 50x lifesize, so it looks a lot bigger than it seems when viewed from the road network. There are some benches around the site, but it's pretty much in the middle of nowhere. Surprisingly it hasn't yet been graffitied, although the material that it's made of is self-cleaning anyway, to ensure that it keeps its whiteness long into the future.
Dream came about because St. Helens wanted something to celebrate the work of the Sutton Manor Colliery, above which the statue now stands, and the former miners had a lot of input into the design. In fact, they vetoed an earlier design from the artist Jaume Plensa, which was a miner's lamp, stating that it was too closely linked to the colliery and the past. They wanted something to celebrate both the past and the future.
It's nice, it's something to be proud of for St. Helens and it's durable. I won't mention the fact that it has one nostril that is bigger than the other and that the whole thing looks very phallic from some angles from the roads...
Where is it?
Located on the site of the old Sutton Manor colliery, this stunning sculpture can be observed for miles. New on the landscape, it can be seen by people passing junction 7 of the M62, midway between Manchester and Liverpool. The Dream is signposted along major roads from the motorway.
What is it?
Opened to the public on May 31st 2009, this piece of artwork was commissioned and delivered by St Helens Council with support of Channel 4, Arts Council England and the Art Fund. Local people were consulted on the design of the sculpture and the decision was made not to have a piece that depicted the mining history of the location but to have a forward facing piece, something I feel has been captured in the purity, hopes and dreams on the face of the nine year old girl represented here.
Designed by Spanish artist Jaume Plensa, the sculpture stands 20 metres tall. It is made of concrete and Spanish dolomite. From a distance it looks pure white, up close you can see flecks of grey dolomite. The surface is smooth to the touch. On my recent visit to the sculpture many people 'hugged the dream'. We set off in glorious sunshine, picnic packed and arrived (after a 10 minute drive!) to grey clouds soon to be accompanied by heavy rain. Yet the weather did not put people off. Many continued to climb the loose stone path to the sculpture, despite getting soaked through. Those that had already ascended remained for a few minutes longer to gaze at her beauty (having given up trying to gain shelter from her chin!).
The statue is located up a fairly long loose stone path. Situated at the top of the hill the path is, inevitably, steep in some places. I saw plenty of people pushing prams up the hill, but I assume pushing a wheelchair would be harder, but not impossible. People with mobility issues that do not require a wheelchair may find the climb difficult. Elderly people requiring walking aids would have a particularly hard time.
The statue itself is reached by climbing a series of stone steps on the plinth beneath it. There is no ramp up to the statue itself.
Parking is not great. The forestry commission car park is tiny and the drive through gates were locked to the site on the day that we went. There is a pub beside the car park, where it may be possible to park if you also patronage the pub.
Admission to the site is free. There are no amenities on site. We took a picnic (and ate it in the rain!). There are a few backless benches around the sculpture but the plinth is surrounded by loose stones, not grass, so take portable seating with you, if you intend to picnic, as a blanket on the ground will offer no comfort.
It's a sculpture on the top of a hill! The pleasure is in the walk up to the sculpture, observing the sheer scale of the sculpture and looking at the views below. It's a free afternoon out spent with family plus a little bit of local education acquired through reading the information notices located on the site telling about the history of the location and the sculpture itself.
I think the site could do with landscaping a little more. It has the potential to be a lovely picnic spot but really needs grass laying around the sculpture for picnickers to enjoy the site in comfort.
The sculpture itself is beautiful and very simple. I like the idea of 'hugging the dream' and that dream can be anything you want it to be. There is a locked door in the back of the sculpture and I'm curious to know what's inside. I'd like to know what a 9 year old girl has inside her head! We will be returning again soon and hopefully the weather will hold so that we can venture around the location a little more. There are several footpaths leading away from the sculpture so I think there's the potential for a little wildlife investigation with the kids. We took a short walk last time but didn't get far as the paths wre overgrown and we were ill-equipped.
The website www.dreamsthelens.com is currently under construction.
A 20 metre high sculpture by world-famous artist Jaume Plensa.