More than Just a Light Show

Dr. David Howell blogged (7/27/2015): More than just a Light Show?

“Seemingly top of the Chartist Commission’s wish list, is what has been described as a ‘spectacular light and sound show’, a projection of images and sounds onto prominent buildings in the city centre.

Now, the idea of projecting images is far from innovative, and light projections connected to historic buildings are common place around the world. Nevertheless, I don’t doubt the idea has some merit, and would certainly attract an audience for the one or two nights when it might be displayed, but that, it appears, would be the extent of the display. Initial costs cited in the media put the display at a whopping £30,000, for a single (presumably) night time showing, and no more.... I can’t help feel that the lack of permanence would be a real problem with this concept.


The Chartist mural was not an outstanding piece of artwork. It was complex, technically impressive, but not something that the National Museum would lament having lost. Artistic brilliance was not the point. The importance of the Chartist mural was that it was part of the day to day life of hundreds, probably thousands of Newportonians. If you lived, worked in or travelled through Newport, for a generation you could not avoid a daily reminder of the Chartist story, why the rising took place, and the sacrifices made. Part of Newport’s daily life was lost.


A light show projection, while perhaps memorable for those who witness it, will be inherently limited to the day of the projection. This will have no impact on the passing footfall traffic passing through Newport on a day to day basis. What public artwork that remains in Newport City centre, related to the Chartist movement, is far too abstract to fulfil this role.


The general consensus seems to be that replicating the Chartist mural, as a concept, is ‘dead in the water’. Maybe so, but to replace the mural with a one off show is a poor substitute for the daily reminder which the mural provided. By all means, run with the sound and light show, it certainly has potential, but please can we collectively reject any notion that this would be a satisfactory long term alternative to the Chartist mural – a one off budget breaking light show will simply fail to have the level of impact exerted by the mural. Long term impact on the community must be a priority. The perhaps less exciting, but more permanent establishment of artworks along the length of Stow Hill, could be far more effective.”


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