Sunday, January 11, 2004


Around 12 weeks ago artist Maggi Hambling’s imaginative scallop sculpture in honour of Benjamin Britten was unveiled on the shingle beach at Aldeburgh, the town where the composer spent much of his life. It evokes a significant line from his most famous opera, Peter Grimes: "I hear those voices that will not be drowned." Prior to Hambling’s tribute the only permanent physical symbols of the great man’s presence in Aldeburgh were his grave and a church window.

But sadly the burghers of small town England are up in arms about the presence of Hambing’s ‘modern art’ in their midst. Although one local resident described it as “superbly sited and, whatever the weather or the state of the sea [something that] always blends in with the natural beauty of the scene", nearly 600 residents have been persuaded by malcontents to sign a petition asking for it to be removed and re-sited at Snape.

Before they gripe at this condemnation of their philistinism, yes I’d be happy to have it in my backyard. Britten, who was born 90 years ago in November 2003, put a great deal into the town. Along with Michael Tippett he’ll rightly be remembered as one of the great twentieth century British composers. His worth certainly deserves better than this senseless bickering.

The Britten-Pears Library is in Aldeburgh and, thankfully, no-one has so far suggested booting it out.

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