I have wanted to visit ‘Another Place’, the installation of 100 cast iron figures on Crosby Beach, for a long time. When Liz and I decided on a week’s holiday in Lancashire, the first thing I said was “Can we go to Crosby Beach?”. We’d put off going there for many years, firstly because we knew Liz wouldn’t be able to walk without pain on the beach, then when she used a wheelchair, that wasn’t going to be a go-er. Unless it’s a Beach Wheelchair, wheelchairs do not move well on sand. Medication and an all-terrain rollator were possibly going to make things different. We agreed that if the approach to the beach, or the sand, made this adventure difficult, we would stand on the promenade and admire the view.
Cameras at the ready, we tried. And we were successful. It was a stunningly beautiful day, warm but not too hot. Parking was near. The slope was easily manageable. There were toilets, always useful if embarking on a walk. The tide was in. We hadn’t thought about the time to go. If the tide’s in, there is nothing to see, except the wind turbines, in the far distance. There is, of course, the RNLI but not one of those with an impressive shop and hundreds of tea towels. They had a Land Rover instead.
Toilet visited, we were about to walk along the ‘prom’ when I noticed the tide was starting to turn.
“I think there’s one over there” I pointed at a tiny blob, could have been a statue, could have been a dog in the sea, could even have been a piece of plastic dumped by inconsiderate tourists. As we were pondering all this, the tide retreated across the wide bay. We were like kids, pointing this way and that, seeing some just poking their heads above the sea, others stood for all the world to see. It was amazing. Not only amazing but moving, emotional. This was so much better than I could ever have imagined.
We decided to get organised, rather than randomly roaming the beach, never seeing anything in detail. I knew all the figures were the same, modelled from the naked body of the artist, Antony Gormley. They might have been created the same but the weather, the corrosion by the sea, the marine life had made each statue different. Different height, different colour, different surfaces and each had a loose metal bracelet, padlocked on, with the number.
We spent more than four hours wandering up and down the beach, and during those four hours more and more figures emerged. I’m sure we never saw them all, but we certainly saw many and even had a ‘Selfie’ with a couple.
I’d read a lot about ‘Another Place’, how the statues are spread over a two mile stretch of sand between Waterloo and Blundellsands, stretching one kilometre out to sea, they stand 6ft 2inches tall and weigh around 650 kilograms. They are all looking out to see, staring at the horizon in silent expectation. They were initially installed on the beach at Cuxhaven in Germany in 1997, followed by Stavanger in Norway and then Panne in Belgium. In 2005, they were at Crosby with plans to take them to New York in 2007 but it was decided to leave them in a permanent home at Crosby. Antony Gormley said in 2005 “I loved the way they took their place so well amongst the great drainage pipes outflow pipes, the estuary and passing ships….They are not ideal or heroic figures from history….”
Starting in 2019, resumed in 2021 (a delay because of Covid) some of the statues have been removed so that their supports can be reinforced, a couple had to be turned slightly because over time the sea and sand had caused a realignment.
There had been some disquiet when ‘Another Place’ was first installed, a fear that tourists would wander out into the sea to see the furthest figures, hence the RNLI’s presence together with strong warnings that this is not a beach for sea bathing and people should stay near the foreshore because there are some soft, moving, dangerous sands.
There were some surprises for me. Besides the toilets, there are no touristy shops or attractions along the promenade. There is a sign saying if you wanted any souvenirs of ‘Another Place’ they are at a leisure centre nearby, Southport Tourist Information Bureau and two other places that I can’t remember. Online I have seen a tea towel celebrating the statues, but not to be found in Crosby. I couldn’t believe there were no tea towels. Shock horror, no tea towels but using Antony Gormley’s words also from 2005 “……a poetic response to individual and universal sentiments associated with emigration – sadness at leaving but hope of a new future in Another Place”. And that is what the RNLI have been involved in, rescuing people trying to cross the English Channel in the search for a new future.
Thank you to Pauline who bought me these two tea towels at Christmas with a note saying “Thank you for looking after my baby brov” (referring to Pete who we go walking with every week).