Robin Hood News-Line:
Dec
12

Still Standing Tall... 63 Years On!

Still Standing Tall... 63 Years On!

On July 24th 2015, it was 63 years to the day since Nottingham's world famous Robin Hood Statue was unveiled to the general public to proudly stand beneath the Castle walls and remind visitors of the City's traditional links with the legendary outlaw. The anniversary prompted me to take a look at some of the other Robin Hood images around the County and to also reflect on a few other statues around the world with legendary connections.

In Edwinstowe village High Street, to acknowledge the belief that the local church was where they were supposedly married, there is a statue of Robin Hood proposing to Maid Marian and out at the near-by Sherwood Forest Visitor Centre there is a fibreglass statue of Robin fighting Little John on a bridge and a more recent one of Robin firing his bow, which had formerly been a central feature of the food court at the McArthur Glen Designer Outlet Village situated just off junction 28 of the M1 motorway.At Thoresby Hall there is a small statue of Robin Hood aiming his bow and arrow from a kneeling position that was made in 1949 by Tussaud-Birt, the grandson of the creator of London's famous waxworks. It is currently situated in the courtyard of the Stable Block, close to the craft workshops and a gallery. The stone statue has unfortunately lost some of its detail due to it being exposed to the elements but it still provides a popular feature where visitors can pose for a photograph.

However, there is plenty of detail to be found in the two carvings of Robin Hood and Little John that support the wooden fireplace surround in the adjacent Thoresby Hotel and a few miles to the south-west, similar figures can be seen carved into the stonework of Archway House near Worksop Priory, together with those of Maid Marian, Friar Tuck, Allan-a-Dale and King Richard I.

The most significant Robin Hood statue to have been commissioned in more recent years was at the appropriately named Robin Hood Airport, near Doncaster, when the 10ft. high contemporary styled figure was unveiled in 2007 by the two celebrated locally-born actors, Sean Bean and Brian Blessed.

Looking further afield, I discovered that around the globe there are various statues of legendary figures from traditional historical folklore and here in the UK and Ireland they include the statue of King Arthur in Winchester (where the Round Table is displayed in the Cathedral); a Rob Roy statue at Culter Burn, near Peterculter, Aberdeen and a Molly Malone statue "wheels her wheelbarrow" in Grafton Street, Dublin. Notable statues in other countries worth mentioning are those of William Tell, in the small town of Altdorf in Switzerland; the Pied Piper statue in the Market Place in Hamelin and another classic statue of King Arthur that appears in Innsbruck, Austria, where he was held in captivity in 1192 by Leopold V, Duke of Austria.

The fact that there is a statue of Alice in Wonderland in New York's Central Park and one of Sherlock Holmes, near 221B Baker Street, London also shows that even imaginary characters from literature get recognised for their appeal in popular culture and subsequently exploited for their tourism potential.

Ironically, the symbolic, bronze Robin Hood Statue on Castle Road, (together with the surrounding wall plaques and groups of smaller statuary), was commissioned in 1949 by a local businessman, Phillip Clay to provide something tangible for visitors to see relating to the internationally known English folk hero's legendary traditional connections to Nottingham. Thank goodness for his visionary generosity - because even today, 63 years later, without his gift to the City, visitors to Nottingham would STILL have nothing to see that focused on Robin Hood –and statistics clearly show that the legendary outlaw is one of the key reasons for the majority of family tourism visits! For a City that promotes itself as being "creative", to the eyes of the outside world, Nottingham's apparent failure to fully capitalise on its globally famous Robin Hood "brand" simply beggars belief !

Dec
12

"They May Be Giants..."But Size Isn't Everything!

"They May Be Giants..."But Size Isn't Everything!

If you want to make an impression in the realms of symbolic "giant" statuary, you obviously need to think big when designing an imposing, towering structure but size alone is not always enough! A glance through Wikipedia's list of the world's tallest statues reveals that location and subject matter are also key elements that help give these mega-sized works of art their breathtaking impact that visually makes a statement.
Surprisingly, New York's "Statue of Liberty" only comes in at number 48 on the list and the UK's spectacular "Angel of the North" sculpture near Gateshead, only ranks 226 ! Officially, the world's tallest statue is the 420 ft high Spring Temple Budha in China, so, at just 10 ft tall, (including its plinth), Nottingham's Robin Hood Statue might be considered somewhat "small-fry" but in terms of its global fame and the millions of times it has been photographed by visitors it is a real league leader.

Whether it's a National Monument like the USA's awe-inspiring Mount Rushmore National Monument in North Dakota ,depicting four of America's presidents, or the fairground-style fibreglass statue of "Hiawatha – the world's tallest Indian" in Ironwood, Michigan, most "giant" edifices were originally constructed to attract visitors to their location and make a visual statement on the landscape.

That of course was the intention of local businessman, James Mellors when, in March 2009, he put forward proposals for a 100 metre high Robin Hood Statue in a prominent position at either Colwick Woods, Victoria Embankment or near the Ratcliffe-on-Soar power station. He was clearly disappointed at the mixed reaction his suggestion got but he is not the kind of person to give up his dream that easily and most of the world's giant monuments initially struggled to make their ideas become a reality.

So, in the meantime, let's be grateful for what we've got and thank benefactor Phillip Clay for his invaluable visionary gift to the City of Nottingham.

Dec
12

Creating the look of a legend - Why Robin Hood is a Graphic Artist's dream character!

Creating the look of a legend - Why Robin Hood is a Graphic Artist's dream character!

Across the centuries, artists and illustrators have produced millions of images of Robin Hood, based on the picture they conjured up of him in their mind's eye! Although the mystery and speculation surrounding the outlaw's actual existence left artists with no "real" person to refer to - it also uniquely presented them with the gift of a "blank canvas" on which the freedom of their imagination could create and interpret the key characters and locations in their own personal, artistic style. The invention of the printing press and the later advent of moving pictures heralded an explosion of popular culture that imprinted Robin's story and graphic profile in hearts and minds all around the world, firmly establishing his iconic reputation as a global folk hero. The resultant artistic legacy was a vast gallery of illustrations, bounded only by visual imagination - so here are just a few examples of ways in which artists have pictorially captured Robin Hood in various aspects of popular culture.

The timeless popularity of the traditional Robin Hood tales ensured that new versions of the stories constantly appeared in books, newspapers and magazines, along with a selection of accompanying images and dramatic cover illustrations, often in colour. Certain illustrators developed their own distinctively recognisable graphic styles and artists such as Howard Pyle, Louis Rhead and N.C.Wyeth are famously renowned for their classic interpretations of the Robin Hood story and often also wrote the texts. Modern day book illustrators are also attracted to depicting the legendary outlaw, resulting in several successful collaborations with popular children's writers and Michael Foreman's drawings for Warhorse author, Michael Morpurgo's "Robin of Sherwood" and award-winning Graham Baker-Smith's illustrations for David Calcutt's "Robin Hood" are two fine examples of visually stunning contemporary artwork that help bring the stories to life. A really dramatic interpretation of the world of the Sherwood outlaw was also created by illustrator Clifford Harper and poet John Gallas in their hard-hitting work "The Ballad of Robin Hood and the Deer".

Robin Hood was one of the first ever "comic book heroes"! Originating from the type of black and white line drawings that illustrated early "Penny Dreadful" style books and magazines of the Victorian and Edwardian eras, publishers soon realised that the popular appeal of Robin's action-packed adventure stories with his band of Merry Men were much-loved, and ideally suited to the bold, graphic style interpretations of the comic book genre. Thousands of comic book-style publications have told the traditional Robin Hood tales in many different ways, including the USA's Classics Illustrated series; the weekly comic strip version by artist Frank Bellamy that appeared in The Swift during the 1950's; DC Comics longest running Robin Hood-styled super-hero, "Green Arrow" and a spoof feature of the Kevin Costner blockbuster "Prince of Thieves" movie in Mad Magazine.

The birth of the motion picture industry also recognised the power of the Robin Hood legend and studios around the world frequently interpreted and dramatised the story for both big screen and television productions. As the Hollywood publicity machine got into gear, many talented illustrators produced literally thousands of colourful posters that throughout the 20thcentury were displayed in cinemas in towns and cities the world over to advertise the wave of A and B feature films that would be "coming soon"! Printed using the lithographic colour process that was the backbone of the printing industry until the arrival of the digital age, they included many iconic Robin Hood film productions, such as the Errol Flynn 1938 classic "The Adventures of Robin Hood" and Walt Disney's 1973 cartoon version with the lovable fox and his friends playing the various Sherwood Forest characters.

Promotion and merchandising became key factors in successfully marketing the television series and blockbuster cinema productions through links to books, magazines, toys and games etc. so yet more illustrators were required to design the covers, boxes and packaging to appeal to the fans. Robin Hood images began appearing on all kinds of items and in the USA, the ITC "Adventures of Robin Hood" series, starring Richard Greene, capitalised on its huge popularity by using illustrations to promote the sales of a diverse range of products from hair tonic to bed linen! Here in the UK, the words to the popular theme song from the series were reproduced in the October 1956 edition of the Hotspur weekly boys comic, which also carried a full page Robin Hood illustration on the front cover.
The advertising industry phenomenon was taking off "big-time" and sowing the seeds for the celebrity style publicity that is now so much a part of everyday life. Local cigarette manufacturers, John Player and Sons even featured Robin Hood alongside the iconic sailor image that appeared on their Navy Cut brand packaging.

Green Arrow - The worlds longest running super-hero!

Having first appeared in More Fun Comics in November 1941, Green Arrow went on to even beat Superman and become DC Comics longest running comic book super hero. Depicted as former rich industrialist, Oliver Queen, who is forced into bankruptcy by an unscrupulous business rival, he turns himself into the Robin Hood-styled urban hunter known as Green Arrow and declares himself willing to fight for the weak and downtrodden, even when that cause sets him up against the establishment and the law! Operating in the US city of Seattle, Green Arrow is regarded as the world's greatest archer, who is also a superb hand-to-hand combatant and a brilliant hunter and tracker.

In one specific episode, he is even invited by an English solicitor to visit Nottingham to help investigate a client's death and the illustrator pictures some of the buildings in the city's streets as being a kind of "contemporary mock Tudor", alongside turreted stone towers!!
Green Arrow's continuing popularity also resulted in it becoming adapted as a 22 episode prime time drama series for Sky Television in 2012.