Dream at St Helens, Sutton Manor Colliery Site, Sutton Woodland, Jubits Lane, St.Helens, WA9 4BB – Visit Now
Located at St Helens, half way between Manchester and Liverpool, Dream is a 20m high outdoor sculpture on the former site of the Sutton Manor Colliery. Sitting on foundations almost double this in depth, the sculpture is of a nine year-old girl’s head, her eyes closed as though dreaming. At approximately 50 times life size, the sculpture took 6,160 hours of work to construct, at a cost of £1.88m; it sits on a commanding position overlooking the Cheshire and Lancashire plains, with views of Snowdonia, the Pennines and the Peak District from the top of the hill it sits on.
Dream has a fascinating history: the monument was designed by world-renowned Spanish artist Jaume Plensa in collaboration with a collection of ex-miners. The St Helens residents felt that, after the pits closed, they had almost nothing to show for centuries of mining work in the area. They wanted the commission to reflect this heritage, but Plensa’s initial design – a giant replica of a miner’s lamp – was felt to be too literal. Understanding that ‘the piece must touch something in the memory of the society in that area’, Plensa returned with a design that referenced the St Helens’ history, but which reflected the community’s aspirations.
The new design originally saw a column of light radiating directly above the head into the ether, Plensa’s new pitch: ‘even if we are small, our dreams could reach the sky.’ The final sculpture was without this beam of light, out of concern for the passing traffic, but the symbolism remained the same: Dream was constructed from 90 precast panels of English concrete mixed with Spanish dolomite marble, the white, almost luminous surface a hopeful contrast to the colour of the coal below. Unanimously granted planning permission by the council, construction was completed in April 2009, and the sculpture, with its facial contours appearing to shift with the weather, has been seen by millions.