Lottery Inquiry into PECT Sculpture Commission

The debate continues between Hugh Cripps from Peterborough Environment City Trust and Robert Erskine creator of the Power Rhythm Sculpture over the commission and subsequent handling of the sculpture as unconfirmed reports claim that the National Lottery will inquire into the facts. It is widely reported that PECT received £100,000 for the scupture and paid the sculptor £11,000 for the work which cost £35,000 in total. The following interview with Robert Erskine was broadcast at 07:20 on 2nd June 2010 in the Peterborough Breakfast Show hosted by Andy Gall on BBC Radio Cambridgeshire and includes a statement from PECT.

The debate continues between Hugh Cripps from Peterborough Environment City Trust and Robert Erskine creator of the Power Rhythm Sculpture over the commission and subsequent handling of the sculpture as unconfirmed reports claim that the National Lottery will inquire into the facts. It is reported that PECT received £100,000 for the sculpture and paid the artist £11,000 for the work which cost £35,000 in total. The following interview with Robert Erskine was broadcast at 07:20 on 2nd June 2010 in the Peterborough Breakfast Show hosted by Andy Gall on BBC Radio Cambridgeshire and includes a statement from PECT.

ANDY: An ownership dispute over one of the city’s most prominent statues has been resolved. Sculptor Robert Erskine had a buyer for his artwork, Power Rhythm, which is on the Eye roundabout, but Peterborough Environment City Trust has now proved that they own it. Robert Erskine can speak to us now. Good morning Robert.
ROBERT: Hello. A very good morning to you.
ANDY: Good morning to you as well. So the stake question has been ironed out then. You don’t own it.
ROBERT: Well I suppose you could say that I don’t actually own the sculpture in the sense that Mr Cripps of Peterborough Environmental (sic) City Trust has finally sent me a little letter with his lovely signature at the bottom just saying “we own the sculpture”. But there’s a bit of a twist to this story because as was reported in yesterday’s Peterborough Evening Telegraph, he states in his final line of the report that the Peterborough Environmental City Trust does not own and maintain sculptures anywhere in Peterborough. So there’s a lot of confusion, and ..
ANDY: There’s a lot of semantics involved in this isn’t there. We don’t really know where we are. But we know that you .. there must have been a transaction between you and PECT to a certain extent that took ownership of this. There’s a transaction. It’s like when you sell a car, you shake a hand with somebody and there’s an exchange of money. Because you’ve been paid for this, haven’t you?
ROBERT: I was paid eleven thousand pounds back in nineteen ninety nine two thousand to design, create over four months, and train two young apprentice engineers to assist me as part of the remit, in making the sculpture, which I was awarded having won a national competition to design the sculpture. I was paid eleven thousand pounds. I never received a contract. I was never given any paperwork. I never even received, peculiarly, a thank you from anybody at the Peterborough Environmental City Trust, who I was given to understand I was working with. And you must understand that historically there’s been a very peculiar situation here, because during the period that the sculpture was being made residents will remember that the newspapers had a very vicious attack on the sculpture, particularly me, whilst it was being made. And never once did Peterborough ever come to my assistance, or report on anything, or even answer any of the adverse criticism that was going on. So when the scukpture was finally finished, I just assumed that it belonged to the people of Peterborough, and as the National Lottery paid Peterborough Environmental City Trust the funding, there were a couple of other parties, that it belonged to Peterborough.
ANDY: Robert, I get the impression that .. it claims here that you’d lined up another buyer for it.
ROBERT: No. What had actually happened was for eleven years this sculpture has remained unfinished. The lighting has never been installed. The gravel around the base which is meant to be bonded has never been put in place, it’s never been maintained in the sense of having the graffiti removed. And very simply for eleven years I’ve asked continually PECT, that’s Peterborough Environmental City Trust, could you please put these things right and finish the sculpture. They have ignored all my requests. So when somebody approached me several months ago, and asked was the sculpture available for purchase, I thought, well, nobody is maintaining it. PECT say it has nothing to do with them in terms of them never finishing it, and never answering my requests, i just felt it was appropriate that I put in place a process for somebody to aquire the sculpture.
ANDY: Ok. Alkright. It’s like the shifting sands here. We don’t know where we are.
ROBERT: Well I’ll tell you what I don’t understand is Mr Cripps’ statement in the Peterborough Evening Telegraph yesterday, and it’s there for everybody to see. He states quite categorically, his last line is, PECT do not own and maintain artworks. So therein is the answer. There is a mystery going on. This story is far from over.
ANDY: Robert, PECT say they’re in talks with Sculpture Trust about the future of the sculpture, and think that they’ve planned for the Trust to look after the sculpture.
ROBERT: Well I don’t trust them. Why has it taken them eleven years to suddenly turn round when a buyer comes along and say, oh, we’re going to have discussions now, suddenly, with the Peterborough Sculpture Trust? Look, I don’t trust Mr Cripps. I think Mr Cripps is a very very slippery customer.
ANDY: Well you’ve got to be careful here, because Mr Cripps isn’t here to defend himself, though Robert.
ROBERT: I’m sure he will be able to defend himself. He has accused me on your programme and on BBC television, of being a spiv, and I quote him. Mr Erskine is a gentleman who …
ANDY: Be careful because .. no .. can’t do that Robert I’m afraid, because Mr Cripps isn’t here to defend himself, so we’ll have to leave that there I’m afraid. But Hugh Cripps, the Chief Executive of PECT did say that, “I am pleased that it has been confirmed that PECT own the statue. We will now hold discussions with the Peterborough Sculpture Trust to see what the next stage is with the handover. Those discussions will include who is in charge of the maintenance. PECT is not an organisation that owns and maintains art pieces.

2 thoughts on “Lottery Inquiry into PECT Sculpture Commission”

  1. Great that this transcript is in the public domain.

    However, in the Peterborough Evening Telegraph 15th of June 2010, Mr Cripps was interviewed and stated as you publish, Quote: ” Peterborough Environmental City Trust does not own or maintain Art Works” End Quote.

    So where precisely does Mr Cripps stand now by this statement? He states he owns Power Rhythm and now confirms otherwise. Frankly I do not think he evens knows or understands the situation.

    There are no ‘Unconfirmed Reports’ as you state at the beginning of the above transcript, claiming The Big Lottery is to investigate the CEO of PECT Mr Cripps, they are confirmed, should you bother to contact The Big Lottery. So please make it your business to provide the correct information instead of quoting lazy unsubstantiated data. Mr Cripps is to be investigated by The Big Lottery, as any major project funded by them must at all times be maintained. Please contact Big Lottery and they will confirm this.

    PECT for 11 years have ignored their responsibility to complete Power Rhythm , they have not installed the lighting an essential part of the sculptures design, place bonded gravel around its base, and just occasionally remove graffiti. The sculpture is designed to be maintenance free, it does not need washing or cleaning. Rather than say we apologise for not following through this, or, we will deal will the issues, PECT have continued an arrogance as displayed clearly by Mr Cripps’ comments and remarks as recorded on your interviews, and, in the press. He has never once mentioned he will attend to the issues and complete them. Instead he has said he will have discussions sometime in the future with Peterborough Sculpture Trust, to assign Power Rhythm, intending to pass his obligations to someone else.

    To have a major landmark sculpture for the City of Peterborough, whose design won a national competition, designed to celebrate the work force of Perkins Diesel Engines, the opening of the Sustrans cycle route at the City, the marking of the new millennium, paid for by the National Lottery and Perkins, and unfinished for nearly 11 years by PECT, is unacceptable.

    That PECT has always stated it cost £100,000 when in fact it cost £35,000, and they have been quite happy to provide Peterborough a half finished edifice, denying its completion is truly extraordinary.

    Of equally serious concern is that international Artists Moral Rights pertaining to Site Specific Artworks have for the term been infringed.

    Mr Cripps likes to wear the label CEO of his modest group. A CEO is meant to behave in an intelligent and professional manner at all times. Mr Cripps has none of these qualities but is a true petty bureaucrat, meaning an official who works by fixed routine without exercising intelligent judgment, not a visionary in any sense but an individual who, by his statements, confirms he has serious concerns for the respect of a professional, and especially regarding public art and Power Rhythm in particular.

    It is Mr Cripps who needs to consider his position in this matter, as it is he who has perpetuated and created this situation for Peterborough.

    Robert Erskine

    International Beit Award for Public Sculpture Excellence
    Member International Sculpture Centre USA
    Fellow Royal British Society of Sculptors

  2. It has now been legally established by contract, that the sculpture Power Rhythm is the property of Robert Erskine and not PECT.

    PECT is in breach of contract, their own, that they signed with Robert Erskine. The contract stipulates that until it is fully completed the sculpture remains the property of the sculptor.

    As of today’s date the lighting, an integral part of the sculpture’s design, and bonded gravel around the base is missing, never having been installed, although PECT received funding for this.

    Additionally the contract states that Power Rhythm will be maintained by PECT, and have an unobstructed view from the main road. To date it is covered in Graffiti, the surface altered and damaged, and is obstructed from clear view by overgrown trees and hedgerows.

    Further PECT were to assign Power Rhythm to Perkins Diesel Engines immediately after installation by the sculptor, PECT never undertook this obligation.

    The sculptor Robert Erskine kept precisely to the terms of the contract, whereas PECT has not.

    Under the international Artists Moral Rights pertaining to site specific art works, as a result of PECT’s refusal to honour its obligations, Power Rhythm has stood in the public domain incomplete and altered, and therefore PECT has infringed the Artists Moral Rights of Robert Erskine.


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