A familiar sight on Parkland Walk, the Spriggan appears from the side of the railway arch like an ancient holy relic. It’s not nearly as old as it seems though. This year sees the 20th anniversary of its installation and the Friends of Stroud Green and Harringay Library were delighted to welcome the team of artists, led by Marilyn Collins, responsible for its conception, creation and installation to give a talk at the library last Saturday about how the Spriggan sprang into being.
Twenty years ago an Arts Officer working in Crouch End called Rob Grundsell had a dream to create a sculpture walk for Parkland Walk. Only one piece was commissioned, however, and it was Marilyn Collins’ designs for a creature from fairy lore that was chosen by the youngsters at the youth club.
Marilyn Collins, artist
In the talk, Marilyn explained how the Spriggan was made and how her friends including Theresa Pateman who was present at the talk helped to develop and model the sculpture. Also joining us was Joe Rodriguez who was given the tough job of installing the larger than life-size piece in the arches. Joe is a sculptor in metalwork and has worked at the Natural History Museum amongst other places.
Joe Rodriguez, sculptor and below one of Joe's pieces
It took two days to install and Marilyn admitted that the installation was a health and safety officer’s nightmare. As they were on a tight budget they were very reliant on the generosity of local people to lend them equipment, including scaffolding borrowed from a man named Jamie Warren and the loan of a van from Camden council. People also gave their time for free to help put The Spriggan up.
Although the response was generally positive to the new sculpture, it appears local climbers were not happy as they were in the habit in those days of using the arches for practice and The Spriggan was now blocking them from using a particularly challenging overhang. These days, the climbers have gone but The Spriggan has suffered a little from vandalism and old fashioned wear and tear, losing its hand and some of the leaves around its head. In 1999 money was raised to repair the piece and put back its hand.
The Spriggan now shares its home with an ever changing graffiti wall, but still has the capacity to scare the unsuspecting passerby however, as Marilyn explained, the Crouch End Spriggan has no quarrel with humans, despite its fearsome reputation because it lives on a nature reserve, although if your small child starts acting a little oddly after standing below it you may want to check if they’re a changeling.
Marilyn’s Spriggan was conceived to reflect Crouch End’s place in the history of permaculture. The first talk in the UK by green guru Bruce Mollison on permaculture was given in Crouch End and, from that talk, the first course in the country was developed. The first urban forest garden in Britain was also planted at Crouch End and from these tiny seeds a large urban movement has grown. The impact on the environment can still be seen locally today for example in Elthorne Park and at the Sunnyside Community Garden. There is also a strong permaculture network in and around Haringey which includes Stroud Green and Harringay Library’s very own Knowing thru’ Growing Community garden growing edibles in beds outside the library for community harvest.
The Friends of Stroud Green and Harringay Library would like to thank Marilyn, Theresa and Joe for a fascinating talk and for solving the mystery of the Parkland Walk Spriggan.
Incidentally, that Wikipedia entry that states that the Spriggan features in the Stephen King story ‘Crouch End’? Marilyn confirms that as a “wikimyth” because, as she pointed out, that story was first written in the early 80s and the Spriggan wasn’t erected until 1993. She believes that the story is more likely to be set around where the New River village is now.
Bob Taylor was kind enough to video the talk and post it on his youtube page. The talk is in three parts
Free Saturday talks are organised by the Friends of SG&H Library and are open to all. Watch the events page for details of topics and dates. All talks take place at 3pm in the upstairs room of the library on Quernmore Road
Made for TV movie. Set in " Crouch End " but actually filmed in Melbourne Australia.
Thanks a lot, Liz - I was very sorry that I couldn't make the talk.
There is a great entry on this here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spriggan
May need help getting home to West Penwith, mind....