Ted Atkinson Sculptures

Coventry had a rich post-war tradition of incorporating sculpture into the public realm - with many works commissioned to complement the various buildings and schemes. This interesting background piece about a well known sculptor came our way recently c/o Paul Maddocks of the Coventry Society:-

''Edward 'Ted' Atkinson (1928-2016) trained as a sculpture first at Liverpool College of Art then the Central School of Art, London. He taught in many colleges, including Coventry College of Art between 1967 - 70.

He did a famous sculpture in Coventry's Smithford Way in front of the Central Library between it and the Marks and Spencer building - three standing white figures more like bags of sausages two outer fat figures and the middle one looking like a string of sausages standing up. The central figure suffered vandalism within weeks of unveiling - and was snapped off at the base, with the remainder placed in store.

Ted described his work as 'three totem-like shapes standing side by side . . . to form a sculptural screen'. The bulbous form of the work and its smooth machine-like finish, relate this work to the sculptures by Joannis Avramidis of the late 1950s and early 1960s. 

This piece was commissioned after twelve years of discussion between the planning committee, British Home Stores and Marks and Spencer. The two companies had taken the premises in the Upper Precinct on the understanding that they would provide some sort of sculptural work associated with their buildings. Donald Gibson, the city architect, had planned that this work would take the form of sculptural reliefs in Caen stone installed on the exterior walls of the two buildings, but his successor Arthur Ling, changed the plan, first to free-standing pieces projecting out from the walls, and then to a free-standing work in Smithford Way. BHS pulled out of the scheme, but Marks and Spencer's made £1000 available for the scheme. In 1962 Arthur Ling suggested Elizabeth Frink's work, but the Committee were unable to agree to this idea. Instead the city architect, art director and art college principal were asked to suggest alternative ways of selecting a piece of sculpture. Their report suggested a piece of sculpture based on the them of 'future technological progress' be commissioned from a 'younger sculptor of potential reputation'. Ted Atkinson was asked to submit a maquette and was then commissioned to carry out the work. The work was removed in circa 1985. The central, tall element had long been missing.

Over the years he contributed to many shows nationally and internationally with the main body of work directed towards architectural commissions, with major public sculptures sited in Britain, Germany, Holland and the USA.

In 1988, along with Moore, Frink and Armitage, he was one of six sculptors invited to represent Britain at Expo'88 in Brisbane.''

We (at Visit Coventry) think it's about time that the surviving sculptures are dusted off to find a new home in Coventry's new-look city centre.. maybe at the entrance to the Broadgate 'ramp'? (see last pic ;)0 )