Sunday, October 22, 2017

Spirit of Place: A Load of Old Bulls

If you'd asked me, I'd have said there was only one of the 1960s bull sculptures adorning the old Bull Ring. In fact it seems there were four, and since being placed 'in storage' after the centre's demolition, they've done a vanishing act. In common with a lot of modernist pulic art of the time, in fact, which is now being hunted.
The Birmingham Mail reported thusly:
They once stood guard at Birmingham’s famous 1960s Bull Ring shopping centre – but now they’ve vanished.

Artist Trewin Copplestone designed the set of four, two-metre high fibreglass bulls for the side of the Bull Ring shopping centre, built in 1963.

The artworks will have been familiar to the millions who passed through the Bull Ring before it was demolished over a decade ago – but their current whereabouts are a mystery.

Historic England, formerly English Heritage, has now launched a campaign to track them down.

They’re certainly not easy to hide – each sculpture was cast in a single piece from a polystyrene mould onto a metal frame and weighed nine tonnes

One of them was damaged by fire in 1983 but was later restored.

Tamsin Silvey, exhibitions manager at Historic England, said: “The bull forms set the Bull Ring apart from other shopping centres back in the 1960s.

“Backlit and standing proud at the top of the shopping centre, they became a landmark, a modernist emblem for the city centre as well as symbol for the determination of new Birmingham.


As far as I can see Copplestone is better known for his paintings nowadays although he has also written on architecture.
My personal opinion is that the current bull the tourists have their picture taken with, is a pale pretender in comparison to Copplestone's.
Inexplicable likes a soundtrack to my ramblings and this music may best represent the 'Continental' ambitions of so many 1960s developments. As you listen, picture yourself having a quiet drink after work on the terrace of the Matador pub in the Bull Ring in the 1960s. Where did the dream go wrong?


  1. If you know of any smashed up china shops, you may have a clue as to the bulls whereabouts...

    The soundtrack rather reminds me of Carry on Abroad, so I think I'm going to stick to the Strictly Paso Dobles for my Matadorial dreams, if that's OK?

    1. Of course it is, dear boy. And we know why, don't we!

    2. If you're implying that it's because of all those defined, masculine torsos, then I'm shocked and appalled...

      ... that I'm so transparent.

    3. Well after all, my manly chest is what keeps bringing you back here, isn't it?


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