Statues in honour of one of the world’s most famous vocal groups, the Bee Gees, have been unveiled by the Mayor of Douglas, Councillor Jonathan Joughin JP.
Installed on Loch Promenade between Marine Gardens 1 and 2 opposite Regent Street, the statues, which were created by the internationally acclaimed artist and sculptor Andy Edwards, are finished in bronze and show Barry, Maurice and Robin Gibb walking back into the town of their birth, Douglas.
The base is the shape of a record with the lyrics of Ellan Vannin inscribed to the front in Manx and to the rear in English, the Bee Gees having recorded a charity single version in the late 1990s in aid of Isle of Man charities.
At the unveiling ceremony on Thursday July 8 Council Members and guests, among whom was Mr Edwards, heard His Worship say how despite becoming one of the best-selling music artists of all time the Bee Gees ‘never forgot the land of their birth’ and that the brothers had always taken every opportunity to speak with ‘deep affection and pride’ of their Manx roots.
He continued: ‘With their international profile and rock-star status the Bee Gees could not have been better ambassadors for the Isle of Man. Their recording of Ellan Vannin helped to raise thousands of pounds for Manx charities and, even now, following the sad passing of Robin and Maurice, Barry continues to raise awareness of the Isle of Man to audiences around the world.’
He went on to say that in August 2008, the Council conferred the Honorary Freedom of the Borough of Douglas on Barry, Robin and the late Maurice Gibb and that in 2013, the first commemorative blue plaque to be erected by the Council was at 50 St Catherine’s Drive, Douglas, the Bee Gees’ childhood home.
Turning to the statues’ sculptor, he said Mr Edwards had created ‘a striking likeness and captured the Bee Gees brothers’ energy and vitality magnificently.’
He continued: ‘That the Bee Gees created so much wonderful music has earned them a place in history. That they should have been such wonderful ambassadors for the Isle of Man has earned them a place in our hearts.’
He concluded: ‘As they were proud of our town and our Island, so we are proud of them - for their music, their charitable support and for never forgetting their Manx roots.’
Council Leader Councillor David Christian MBE JP said: ‘Douglas played an important part in the early years of the Gibb brothers who lived in our town with their late father Hugh and mother Barbara. It’s interesting to note that Hugh Gibb had been a drummer and bandleader who, like his sons, played to packed houses, albeit in Douglas.
‘Later the family moved to Manchester before emigrating to Australia, but no matter where they lived and no matter the level of success they went on to achieve, the brothers’ abiding love for Douglas and the Isle of Man endured.
‘The statues of the Bee Gees stand proudly at a major gateway to the island’s capital and has been installed at a time of renaissance for Douglas promenade. It will become a landmark for the people of Douglas, the Isle of Man and beyond our shores to visit and enjoy for generations to come.’
Describing the statues Mr Edwards said: ‘The title on the stone base is simply The Bee Gees (born here). They are depicted in the swagger of the 1977 video for Stayin' Alive. The song went to number one in The States and became one of six consecutive number one hits for the brothers, equalling The Beatles’ record.
‘The material of the finished statues is bronze, the exact same bronze as The Beatles’ statues. My original sculptures from which the bronzes were cast after being moulded, were modelled in clay, originating from Stoke on Trent, 'The Potteries', UK centre of ceramics, the exact same clay as used by the famous nearby Wedgwood factory today.
‘The statues stand at 2.2m tall - about one fifth bigger in scale than life-size and stand on a base 2.5m in diameter.
‘It’s hard to calculate how many hours the work took to create, as in every other artistic pursuit, a labour of love like this is virtually impossible to stop ourselves continually working on, adjusting and fine tuning, but 12 highly skilled foundry people - moulders, casters and metalworkers in addition to me the sculptor - have devoted themselves, totalling over 2,000 hours of work.’
Turning to the inspiration for the statues Mr Edwards said: ‘As virtuoso musicians and stage performers, it was tempting to depict the Bee Gees this way with their instruments and microphones, but the Promenade location was a bigger influence. The confidence and togetherness that comes from the Stayin' Alive video just seemed perfect visually in bringing Barry, Maurice and Robin back home, walking down their seafront. They are an archetype of cool and when you see them in those clothes, moving in grace and rhythm, I think it makes you straighten your own back a little and feel some of that self-belief. The statues are not complete until they have people posing around them. That's when they'll properly come to life. A lot of care has been taken in the design of their lighting too, so I can’t wait to see them at night. Among the things I most enjoyed about sculpting these statues was the research and hidden history - finding out about the type of watches they wore, the personal details like the rings and recreating Robin's Capricorn birth sign medallion and copying Maurice's cowboy boots. Barry even has a necklace with a tiny map of the Isle of Man on it. I got lost in that detail, I had to, because in the moments I started to realise the importance of this landmark, I could have easily frozen in terror. This work is a massive honour and privilege for all of us who have worked on it. We've absolutely loved it. I hope that comes through.’
About the creative team:
Andy Edwards and the team at Castle Fine Arts Foundry have previously produced The Beatles, The Christmas Truce statue and Cilla Black in Liverpool and Muhammad Ali and father of the civil rights movement Frederick Douglass for Maryland, USA - even the ship's bell and a portrait of Sir David Attenborough for the new research vessel named after him - during 30 years of working together on prestigious projects unveiled by and presented to Archbishop Desmond Tutu, President Barrack Obama, The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Pelé, The Princess Royal and more.