Casting Characters: Comedy legend sculptures showcase amazing work of Graham Ibbeson

WHAT do comedy icons Eric Morecambe, Benny Hill, Sir Ken Dodd and Laurel and Hardy also have in common?

Promoted by Barnsley Museums
Tuesday, 3rd May 2022, 10:19 pm
Sculptor Graham Ibbeson with his latest work of Sir Ken Dodd. Photo Tony Johnson
Sculptor Graham Ibbeson with his latest work of Sir Ken Dodd. Photo Tony Johnson

They have all been immortalised by Barnsley’s own super talented Graham Ibbeson – the town’s world famous ‘People’s Sculptor’ and one of Yorkshire’s best-loved artists, writes Graham Walker.

His moulds of the well-loved performers, which were used to create their bronze statues, now feature in a new free entry exhibition celebrating his work in the town centre.

Casting Characters: The Worlds Of Graham Ibbeson, is in The Gallery at The Glass Works and runs until July 31.

It also includes fun sculptures of ordinary people, such as a pam-pushing mother and child, called Uphill Struggle,

The display features the works in their raw state, using a fibreglass technique, part of the sculpting process.

Inspired by Graham’s workshop, figures include a sneak peek first look at Graham’s latest sculpture of Ken Dodd with Diddyman, Dickie Mint – on display by kind special permission of the late comic’s widow, Lady Dodd.

Visitors are being urged to get involved and strike the famous poses of the characters on show and share their photos on Barnsley Museums social media channels.

The exhibition kick starts the Graham Ibbeson Summer Season, which people can experience right throughout spring and summer.

As well as Casting Characters, the Summer Season includes High Noon to Midnight, Drawings by Graham Ibbeson, Words by Paul Thwaites hosted at the Cooper Gallery from Saturday, July 16 until Saturday, September 3.

There will be a limited edition publication, and a brand-new public art trail featuring much of the artist’s work in Barnsley.

Barnsley born and bred, Graham, who was recently awarded the Honorary Freedom of the Borough, is best known for his realistic, soulful figurative sculptures which have been commissioned for displays all over the world.

His work also features heavily in and around Barnsley – including the Dickie Bird statue, celebrating the life and career of the town’s legendary Test cricket umpire, a Kes tribute to the late Barnsley born author, Barry Hines, a memorial to the Oaks Mining Disaster and his latest, a Covid memorial sculpture in recognition of those that lost their lives and as a tribute to key workers of the pandemic.

Despite international acclaim, Graham has remained active and close to his roots in Barnsley for over 50 years, including running his studio from Barnsley and inspiring future artists at Barnsley College.

Graham said of the exhibition: “It's a great opportunity to get my work in the centre of the town and also get the people, my community, to actually go into a gallery.

“We have taken the Cooper Gallery basically into the town.

Casting Characters: The worlds of Graham Ibbeson in Barnsley to July 31. Photo Tony Johnson

“There are eight pieces in there. These are the originals that I took to the foundry to have cast into bronze. We have Eric Morecambe skipping away and Laurel and Hardy pratting about.

"There's Benny Hill, which was commissioned but nobody took it on to be cast into bronze, so we only took it to the fibreglass level.

“There’s also the scales of justice, which is outside of Middlesbrough law courts. And there’s a woman pushing a pram – called Uphill Struggle, with a smirking little infant in the pram, who has just thrown his dummy out. There's alos a girl swimming along on a stool, as kids do.

“It's important that people come and see it, enjoy it, laugh and hopefully they the go see the drawings at the Cooper.”

Graham added: “I had been making public sculpture since 1986. You always think could have done better and improve on it. But you can't - that mistake you keep on seeing is going to be there forever. You don't tell anybody about it, you can see it, but you only tell the closest and dearest about it.

"I used to mould the clay and put it into fibreglass. And that's what is shown at the Glass Works. However, to speed the process up, now we take a rubber mould directly off the clay. So the clay is destroyed and you just ended up with a rubber mould.

Casting Characters

"So really your life is in the hands of these mould makers, because there's no original left."

Graham, who was raised on council house estates in Cudworth and Shafton, explained why he’s so proud of the town. He added: "It’s about the people, not the buildings. I'm part of that community and I’m proud to be a son a Barnsley.”

Coun Tim Cheetham, Cabinet Spokesperson for Place, Regeneration and Culture, said: “Graham’s work is featured in locations across the globe and celebrates well-loved characters from entertainment and sport as well as capturing monumental moments in history.

"We are incredibly proud to have an artist of his calibre from Barnsley, putting our borough on the world map, and his new exhibition is a real treat for fans of art, sculpture and design.”

To find out more visit www.cooper-gallery.com

Benny Hill
Uphill Struggle. Photo by Tony Johnson