A large fibreglass sculpture atop a cross-plan tiled pedestal and square base. The copper-green, thick-set figures represent a family linked in a ring. The shirtless father bends to reach the hands of a toddler whilst the mother holds the youngest member of the family in her arms.
Billlingham, a town built in the 1920s for the workers of ICI's vast chemical plant, underwent its second major phase of building development in the period 1945-67. Financed by ICI's huge rates, the local council built six thousand new homes, created a new town centre (complete with under-pavement heating) and in 1965 commissioned the architects Elder, Lester and Partners to design the Forum, Britain's first major combined sports and arts centre.(1) With an ice-rink, swimming pool and theatre, the £949,000 'Grandfather of Leisure Centres' was intended as a venue from which the whole family could find entertainment and recreation.(2) As an additional statement of Billingham Urban District Council's commitment to the 'care and culture' of the family unit they invited the sculptor Bainbridge Copnall to execute a sculpture which would embody these ideals.
Both the Forum and Family Group were inaugurated by her Majesty the Queen on 19th October 1967. Following the unveiling of the sculpture, the Duke of Edinburgh is said to have asked Councillor Bill Allen 'The man on the statue looks rather careworn. Did you pose for it ?'(3)
Insised on slate plaque on base: UNVEILED BY / HER MAJESTY QUEEN ELIZABETH II / ACCOMPANIED BY / HIS ROYAL HIGHNESS THE PRINCE PHILIP DUKE OF EDINBURGH / 19TH OCTOBER 1967.
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