Slaving away!

Picture caption: Sculptor Corin Johnson with the new Supplicant panel
Picture caption: Sculptor Corin Johnson with the new Supplicant panel
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A LEADING British sculptor has described carving the new Supplicant panel on the Clarkson Memorial in Wisbech as one of the hardest jobs of his career.

And he revealed that he had drawn inspiration from the face of singer and supermodel Grace Jones to give the panel a “more contemporary” look.

Corin Johnson had been commissioned by Fenland District Council to make a replacement for the original panel, which had become badly eroded.

The memorial commemorates Thomas Clarkson, the great 18th-century anti-slavery campaigner, who was born in Wisbech. The Supplicant panel depicts in intricate detail a manacled slave with his arms outstretched, pleading for help.

Mr Johnson’s previous work includes a memorial to Princess Diana at Althorp and two Christian martyrs at Westminster Abbey. He said this week: “It took me more than a year, on and off, to carve the panel and it was a real challenge – one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done.

“Getting the perspective right was tricky and one thing I tried to do was make the slave figure a little more contemporary looking – the original was very stereotypical. In the past I’ve done a bust of Grace Jones and I used some of the elements of her face for the re-creation.”

Mr Johnson put the finishing touches to the half-ton block of sandstone when it was installed earlier this year. He had to painstakingly chip away with a hammer and chisel to ensure an exact fit after workmen had spent three hours carefully manoeuvring it into position.

The installation completed a £45,000 restoration of the monument carried out by FDC. The Wisbech Society contributed £20,000 towards the cost of the new panel. Their cheque was ceremonially handed over to Councillor David Oliver, FDC’s portfolio holder responsible for Wisbech affairs, last week.

Cllr Oliver said: “Corin has produced a magnificent piece of work that rounds off our restoration of the memorial to one of Wisbech’s greatest sons. It will be much admired for many years to come.”

The original panel is now in the Wisbech Museum.