It's that time of year again: Merseytravel's annual Art on the Network competition, bringing new public art to Merseyside. The project has been publicised with the gorgeous poster on the left, a beautiful tribute to those fantastic Art Deco railway posters of the 1930s (this version is taken from the cover of the entry form; there is a slightly different version on the platforms). To be honest, I'd be happy just to see a series of posters based on this style springing up all over the place. Imagine one inviting you to travel by train to Formby, or Port Sunlight; think of a beautiful stylised image of the Mersey Ferry in sharp 1930s vision; the clean lines of the Queensway Tunnel with speed blurs of cars as they push through; or an aeroplane peeling off over the top of South Parkway. It'd be quite lovely. If I had any artistic talent, I'd do it myself.
But I don't, so it's up to properly talented people out there to do it. This year is based around finding designs for posters, so unlike the single site installations of previous years, the potential here is for the artwork to be all over the place. You can find entry forms and details about the competition here. Good luck!
It's coming at a time when Merseyrail's artwork is quite literally under threat. I was alerted by my friend Rosie via Twitter that the Phil Bews' Refuge art work at Bank Hall had disappeared. I was horrified: these were some of my favourite pieces. I loved them when I visited. Instead, there are ugly blue wooden columns in their place.
I contacted Emma, the public arts officer at Merseytravel, and she assured me that they haven't gone as such. It turns out there's been some vandalism, and so they've been covered up for their own protection (I have heard through a different website that someone tried to smash the columns to get at the bronze work). Merseytravel are now looking at a way to preserve them, possibly involving moving them away.
This is a real shame, and gets me quite furious. The artwork was there to try and improve the environment. Bank Hall is in a bleak position, under a high ugly wall and surrounded by docks and industry. Refuge brought a bit of lightness and joy into that situation, and I'd often seen people looking at them admiringly. Now we're in a situation where no-one wins - the station looks uglier and uncared for, the passengers have a more miserable experience, and Merseytravel has to find some cash to make things right again - possibly to the extent of just removing them entirely. I feel like kicking some heads.