Gateshead’s Angel of the North is now one of 12 official ‘Icons of England’. The Antony Gormley sculpture, commissioned by Gateshead Council in the 1990’s was short listed for iconic status in 2005 and will be officially unveiled as an English icon on 9 January, as part of a major government-sponsored Culture Online project.
Culture Minister, David Lammy will announce the 12 icons at the launch of ‘ICONS - A Portrait of England’, a new online project at www.ICONS.org.uk. Olympic athlete, Jonathan Edwards was one of many people in the North East who backed the choice of the Angel of the North as an icon of England.
Gateshead Council is now inviting people living in the North East to identify more cultural icons to ensure that the area is well represented in the ICONS online collection. Those successful may be added to the list. Nominate Your North East Icons of England at www.ICONS.org.uk
The web-based initiative will paint a virtual portrait of the country through an exploration of all our favourite icons, from Stonehenge to the humble cup of tea. It will identify what makes England what it is in the 21st century and will also be a real exploration of culture and identity and all that it means for people living in this country.
In the North East, Gateshead Council is taking the lead to invite people, from each of our different communities, to nominate their favourite icons. They can also vote on other people’s nominations and share anecdotes, photographs and memories online. ICONS has been commissioned by Culture Online, part of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport to help generate new interest in our cultural treasures.
“The Angel of the North is a symbol of so much that we can be proud of in Gateshead and the North East, “ said Councillor John McElroy, who is cabinet member for culture at Gateshead Council, which originally commissioned the icon built in 1998. “As a people we are strong, creative, open and affectionate - the Angel says it all for the public. A unique structure in a unique place. We are delighted our love for the Angel of the North is shared by the nation as a whole.
“Now we are inviting the people of the North East to make sure the other fantastic achievements of the North East are reflected in the ICONS collection by nominating and voting on the site at www.ICONS.org.uk. BALTIC, Gateshead Millennium Bridge and The Sage Gateshead should all be nominated and will be a spur to the general development of the area, which means an improved economy and greater prosperity for all.”
Olympic athlete, Jonathan Edwards had this to say when he nominated the Angel of the North as an icon of England. “It is not simply just a piece of fantastic contemporary art, but a symbol of the cultural regeneration of Gateshead and Newcastle”.
More ‘Icons of England’ will be announced each quarter during 2006 so there is plenty of opportunity to get the North East’s favourite icons officially selected. However, the first 12 official ‘Icons of England’ being announced at January’s launch will start off the collection. They include the Routemaster double-decker bus, Stonehenge, The Angel of the North, Punch and Judy, the S.S. Empire Windrush, Holbein’s portrait of Henry VIII, a cup of tea, the FA Cup, Alice in Wonderland, the King James Bible, the Spitfire and Jerusalem.
Culture Minister, David Lammy, who is attending the launch at the Globe Theatre, in London said: “No-one can fail to respond to some of the icons that feature in this project. Who hasn’t ached for a proper cup of tea when they’ve been on an overseas holiday or yearned for their team to pick up the FA Cup at the end of the season? Icons are important to us because they evoke thoughts and emotions about how we feel about our place in society. The ICONS website helps us to explore how our response to icons has shaped our understanding of personal and national identity.”
Hundreds more nominations from the public are now expected and ‘waves’ of new “Icons of England” will be announced each quarter, as the online collection grows bigger and richer in content. “So people from the North East could have a huge impact on the nominating and voting”, said Councillor McElroy.“
Lots of groups are involved, including, the National Trust, English Heritage, the Football Association, Age Concern, the Jewish Museum and the Muslim Council for Great Britain as well as museums and library networks in cities like Brighton & Hove, Birmingham, Manchester, London and Bristol.
ICONS Online has been set up to develop the ICONS project by Cognitive Applications (www.cogapp.com
), an award-winning new media consultancy founded in 1985. Originally working in artificial intelligence, the company pioneered the application of interactive software in the late 1980s and is now one of the most experienced of its kind in the world. Cognitive Applications helps clients plan and deliver large-scale online and interactive projects. The company has offices in Brighton, England and Washington DC. Current clients include Manchester United, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the BBC and the Home Office.
Culture Online www.cultureonline.gov.uk
is an innovative initiative that seeks to increase access to, and participation in, arts and culture. Culture Online brings together cultural organisations with cutting-edge technical providers to create projects that will delight adults and children of all ages and backgrounds.
A full educational programme will be launched by ICONS in the Spring. The aim is to create a vibrant resource for teachers in classrooms, as well as providing an entertaining and stimulating springboard to adult learning. Further details from ICONS Community Programmes and Education Manager, Ted Davis on 01273 821209.
Celebrities who have nominated an icon and will be featured in the Me and My Icons section of the new ICONS website, so far include: Eddie Izzard, Jonathan Edwards, Richard E Grant, Jonathan Miller, Amanda Redman, Margaret Drabble, Maureen Lipman, Claire Rayner, Ken Livingston, Jimmy Hill, Tracey Chevalier, Sir Terence Conran, Janet Suzman, Judy Parfitt, TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber and Frederic Raphael.