At the January meeting of the Executive Committee we took the decision to be publicly positive about the Cornhill, on the basis that, having spent nearly £5 million major changes were now unlikely. We expect that it will take a while for the proposed new uses to come into play (particularly as Morris Men and Puppet Theatres don't usually perform in the winter) and like all changes, we’ll get used to it over time.
The new layout has a number of advantages. The space has, once again become a public square, a facility it didn't enjoy on market days with the market traders erecting their stalls on the edge of the highway leaving the space in front of the Town Hall dead, and the footfall outside Mannings almost non-existent. Any attempt to get people into the Town Hall was blocked by a wall of market stalls, the Suffolk Craft Society shop failed and the café struggles with just a few dedicated users.
However, four months on from the apparent completion and I remain disappointed, particularly with the monoliths. It seems every time that I cross the square someone will ask me what I think. I was ridiculed for describing them as 'posh concrete' when they were first announced. I was wrong, they are not posh! If this public art had been delivered elsewhere it would have been rejected as substandard.
We were promised a multitude of names, local people who had helped to put Ipswich on the map. I was expecting, perhaps 100, from ship builders to brewers, from philanthropic merchants to engineers, seed-growers to foundry men and a recognition that women also played a significant role in the development of the town.
Perhaps I was expecting too much when the original images showed the standing stones as green, with shadow outlines of figures and other images covering the full height of the arch. Perspective in CGI drawings is a useful tool architects use to convey a different height to what becomes reality but in my opinion these stones are not big enough, not sufficiently majestic to command the central position (in the town) that they occupy.
My final gripe is the seats: we were promised the opportunity to eat our freshly purchased sandwiches whilst sitting in the sun watching the fountains. We can, providing we don't want to sit together, or engage in conversation with a someone else on the same bench, or snuggle up close to admire our recent purchases (there are no benches and the individual seats are too far apart to hold meaningful conversation).
I hope that by the time you read this the monoliths will have been polished, the rust stains and the mortar splashes removed and a few more plaques with famous Ipswich names added. The footballers are important but we should acknowledge the contributions made by a significant number of others.
Monolith names (famous Ipswich people): Edith Cook, Nina Layard, Thomas Clarkson, Robert Ransome, Thomas Wolsey, Alf Ramsey, Bobby Robson.