Chiswick’s new sculpture sparkles in the rain as Rowan Williams declares it “definitively there”

Image above: L to R: Former Archbishop of Canterbury, Rt. Rev. & Rt. Hon. Dr.Rowan Williams; Ireland’s Ambassador to UK Martin Fraser; Cahal Dallat; Mayor of Hounslow Cllr Raghwinder Siddhu; Chief Sangha Nayaka of Great Britain, Bogoda Seelawimala Thera; Vicar of St Michael & All Angels Church, Fr Kevin Morris; Deputy Lieutenant of Greater London, Rosi Prescott; Conrad Shawcross RA –  photograph Roger Green

The rain held off for a beautiful ceremony unveiling the Yeats memorial sculpture

Chiswick’s new sculpture, Enwrought Light, the memorial to W.B Yeats designed by sculptor Conrad Shawcross RA, was unveiled on Tuesday by the former Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams. A little crowd of about 200 well-wishers gathered on the green outside St Michael & All Angels Church to take part in the ceremony on the corner of Bath Rd and The Avenue.

There was much putting up and taking down of umbrellas as the sky darkened and the rain threatened. The sculptor’s understanding of structure came into play as the archbishop’s umbrella turned itself inside out and stubbornly refused to be righted until he stepped in.

Irish Heritage musicians Robert Finegan and Tara Viscardi played beautiful, haunting music on saxophone and harp respectively from the relative shelter of a gazebo and local school children from Belmont Primary School, ArtsEd and Southfield Primary came up to the microphone to read Yeats’ poems.

The great Irish poet, who won the Nobel prize for literature in 1923, lived in Bedford Park with his family as a young man and wrote several of his best-known poems there. He could have looked out at Southfield School from his bedroom window, had it been built then, said Cahal Dallat, the prime mover behind getting the sculpture installed.

Images above: Fr Kevin Morris with sculptor Conrad Shawcross; former Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams (centre) and Cahal Dallat (right)

Then it poured down as the Great and the Good went off for tea

St Michael & All Angels was Yeats’ local church, said vicar Father Kevin Morris and he went to services there, though not very regularly. Having knelt in prayer one day, the poet was amused by the sign in the church porch telling worshippers that ‘kneelers must be hung up.’

The new Ambassador for Ireland Martin Fraser, who had only been in post for about ten days, said the Irish government would be bemused to read in his daily despatch that instead of paying attention to the new prime minister’s first speech he had been standing in the damp drizzle in a corner of west London listening to Yeats poetry and Irish music.

His predecessor Adrian O’Neill had given a great deal of support to the project, said Cahal, and as a result Bedford Park bears the distinction of being the only place in the whole of the UK to have a Yeats memorial.

The sculpture was designed to reflect the seasons and the conditions around it, explained Conrad. As the leaves turned it would reflect the gold and tawny colours of autumn. At dusk and dawn it would reflect the pinks of the sky and in winter the grey and the drear.

Rowan Williams treated us to a visual picture of how it might have been had he actually unveiled it. It might have been tricky, as the sculpture is quite spiky. Instead the scuplture, never veiled but standing proud for all to see since its installation at the end of last week, looked on in all its glory as the archbishop said he would content himself with merely “waving my hand expansively to declare it to be definitively there.”

It was a “massive priviledge”, he said, to have been involved.

Images above: Ireland’s ambassador to the UK, Martin Fraser; Cahal Dallat and Fr Kevin Morris

It was quite grey on Tuesday but the serious rain held off until the great and the good, including the majors of Ealing and Hounslow and the Deputy Lieutenant of Greater London Rosi Prescott,  were tucked safely up in the Buddhist Vihara across the road for a cup of tea.

It poured with rain in the interval between the ceremony and the Josephine Hart Poetry Foundation’s poetry evening in the church while the sculpture twinkled prettily with raindrops.

Images above L to R: Sinéad Cusack, Ciarán Hinds, Ruth Negga, Jeremy Irons

Leading lights of Irish theatre and film, Sinéad Cusack, Ruth Negga and Ciarán Hinds illustrated Yeats’ work with readings on the various themes and periods of his life – his fascination with the fairy folk, his love for Maud Gonne, politics, Irish nationalism, the rage of an old man – along with Jeremy Irons, an “honorary Irishman” (he has a castle in the west of Ireland).

Rowan Williams had commented earlier that Yeats never stood still as a poet. The three great phases in his career as a poet were all totally different from each other, which made the design of the sculpture particularly fitting.

The evening was magical, the audience in the packed church rapt as the famous actors transported us with Yeats’ words, though their voices were so gorgeous, so deep and mellifluous and their delivery so flawless, I suspect the audience would have sat there and listened if they’d read out the phone book.

Images above: Unveiling of Enwrought Light, Tuesday 6 September 2022

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: Interview with Conrad Shawcross, designer of Chiswick’s new sculpture Enwrought Light

See also: Bedford Park – the hotbed of radical free-thinkers

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