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Largest cast bronze sculpture in UK travels to Plymouth by barge

Welders have been inside the sculpture for months.

The UK’s largest cast bronze sculpture is being unveiled after two years in the making.

The “young, powerful” female figure, entitled Messenger, has been cast at a foundry in a tiny Welsh village, using the ancient technique of lost wax casting.

It will stand in front of the Theatre Royal Plymouth, which commissioned Joseph Hillier to create the work.

Hillier was inspired by the split-second pose of an actor rehearsing for Othello on the theatre’s stage.

The sculpture, spanning seven metres high and nine metres wide, was too large to be put together inside the foundry.

Artist Joseph Hillier on a boat beside his sculpture Messenger
Artist Joseph Hillier on a boat beside his sculpture Messenger (Ben Birchall/PA)

It was made in sections, with 30 master craftsmen and women welding together 200 bronze panels.

The Cornish-born sculptor previously told the Press Association that the piece will be the largest bronze sculpture in the UK by volume  – at 25.6 metres cubed and will weigh nine and a half tonnes.

“It’s a really big piece. If I lay on the floor, I’m the size of one of the feet,”  he said.

But, despite this, “the pose is very small. She’s like a coiled spring… ”

Messenger arrives in Plymouth Sound by barge
Messenger arrives in Plymouth Sound by barge (Ben Birchall/PA)

Visitors will be able to walk under Messenger’s body “into the theatre, like an archway” .

“There have been people inside the sculpture for months, welding it,” Hillier said.

He said of the work: “It’s a young powerful woman, a potent force, about to transform the world by her actions … It’s a metaphor for what great theatre does.”

Messenger was cast at the Castle Fine Arts Foundry in Llanrhaeadr-Ym-Mochnant and travelled to Plymouth Sound on a barge before heading to its destination on a low-loader lorry.

It is being installed as part of Theatre Royal Plymouth’s £7.5 million regeneration project.

Theatre chief executive Adrian Vinken described the work as “mind-blowing”.

Messenger has been made by Hillier for the Theatre Royal Plymouth as a monument to the creativity of theatre and will be open to the public from Friday evening.

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