The Unveiling of Ira Aldridge

The Landmark series on Sky Arts has announced it’s first winner. Favour Jonathan has won with her mesh sculpture of Ira Aldridge holding a watch aloft, which has now been installed halfway up the former IKEA building on Croft Road in Coventry. The building is currently being used as a HQ for City of Culture and at some point in time is due to become the National Collections art centre.

Ira Aldridge being lifted into position.

It may seem like a strange place to put it, so high up when it would be much more visible and imposing on the ground, but it has been suggested that when the building becomes the National Collections centre, a new front door will be put in on the Croft Road side by the Sky Dome, meaning then Ira will be over the front door. Having seen the sculpture in position, there is a slight concern though that is when it is sunny the black mess appears grey, just like the wall behind it so it becomes harder so see. but the talk was that if it doesn’t work where it is it may well move in the future.

Perhaps the most surprising thing in the programme, besides the fact the artist wanting to build a bicycle-based artwork didn’t know the site was formerly the largest bike factory in the world at a time when Coventry was the global centre of the industry, which may well have helped his pitch (in a similar vein, Favour Jonathan wanted the watch as a reference to people changing the times they live in, not to do with the fact Coventry was the centre of that industry too, though I expect a lot of people will wrongly think that is what the statue is actually about), was that the brand new mural of Ira Aldridge on the side of the Belgrade Theatre wasn’t included at all in the programme.

Conspicuous by his absence, the other Ira Aldridge.

This was even more bizarre as outside shots of the theatre were used from the most obtuse angle, to make sure the mural was never in shot. The mural is of course there because at the age of around 21 Aldridge became the manager of the Coventry Theatre in 1828, but it wasn’t in the show because according to sources at Sky, Dreph, the artist who painted the mural refused permission for it to be included in the show. That’s something which I at least took as a big surprise, given that it’s outside on a wall now, surely who films or photographs it should be beyond the propriety of the artist.

Some idiot who provided a one-line endorsement for the statue in the final of Landmark stands next to the watch before it is installed, just to give you an idea how big it actually is.

As this is being written, there is still a tarp over Ira, as he was actually installed in August and covered up until the end of the series was broadcast today (18th October 2021) with everyone who saw it having to pretend they didn’t know it was there until now. But you’ll soon be able to see this landmark, which is another tribute to Coventry’s proud history as a trailblazer for racial equality in the arts.

Published by Sky Blue City Walks

Guided Walks of Coventry, the UK Capital of Culture 2021

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