‘City People’ sculptor wants artwork re-erected in Derry

The 'City People' sculpture which won an Arts Council competition in the early 1970s. It was demolished in the 1990s to make way for a car park. [24-02-12 SML 3]
The 'City People' sculpture which won an Arts Council competition in the early 1970s. It was demolished in the 1990s to make way for a car park. [24-02-12 SML 3]

The artist who designed an award-winning sculpture later demolished to make way for a car park in Derry city centre says she wants it re-erected.

Joan Walsh-Smith believes it’s possible as the original moulds are available in “perfect condition.”

Last month, the ‘Journal’ revealed that the internationally-acclaimed sculptor’s ‘City People’ work - once a focal point of Foyle Street Urban Park - was not only torn down but that no effort was made to preserve it.

The artwork fell foul of the wrecking ball when the park was bulldozed in the mid-1990s as part of a radical redevelopment programme.

Mrs. Walsh-Smith only found out about the demolition after the ‘Journal’ contacted Derry City Council to find out the whereabouts of the sculpture.

She told the ‘Journal’ that, when she realised that Foyle Street had been redeveloped, she assumed her artwork had been relocated elsewhere or removed and preserved.

Derry City Council subsequently confirmed that Mrs. Walsh-Smith’s 30 metre long public artwork - unveiled in the 1970s - had been “decommissioned”.

Mrs. Walsh-Smith said she was “shocked and appalled” to learn of the demolition, branding it a “stupenduous act of cultural vandalism.”

A spokesperson for Derry City Council said: “It is unfortunate that this piece of work was decommissioned and demolished and we fully acknowledge that, during its time, it served the public life of the city.”

However, Mrs. Walsh-Smith believes ‘City People’ can be resurrected in Derry and has written to the City Council asking it to consider this option.

“I believe this can quite easily be achieved from the moulds which are available in perfect condition,” she said.

In response, a spokesperson for Derry City Council last night said it was currently reviewing Ms. Smith’s correspondence with a view to responding to her directly later this week.

City People’ was the brainchild of Joan Walsh and her husband-to-be Charles Smith - two young Irish sculptors who, in the early 1970s, were working on their first ever major public art project.

The husband-and-wife team - living in Australia since the mid 1980s where they operate their own studio - are now regarded as among the world’s premier sculptors.

Their work - which is on display around the world - is so highly regarded that they were awarded the Australian Prime Minister’s Federal Centenary Medal in 2001.