The temptation of Clough..

A little matter like his passing doesn’t keep Cloughie out of the headlines for any great length of time, so perhaps it’s not surprising that he’s made done just that locally twice this week.  I raised a few eyebrows today when announcing I was off to the theatre this evening, it would have done had I been to see a play, but the a reading of a play currently in rehearsal?  Well that just wasn’t like me.  Until I casually mentioned it was about Brian Clough, then eyebrows were restored to usual height.

I wasn’t writing the blog when Stephen Lowe‘s excellent “The Spirit of the Man” play was running – but, not being a theatre buff – I can confess that prior to tonight my last three visits to the Playhouse in Nottingham were to see this very production.  I loved it.  It was a tad on the cheesy side, but on all three occasions it never failed to bring a tear to the eye – so I was quite excited to see what I would make of a sneak preview of the sequel – “The Devil’s League”.

In introducing the reading, Stephen Lowe himself spoke of readings usually attracting fifty or so spectators maximum, there were considerably more people who had taken advantage of the free tickets this evening.  The play will actually be on in Derby, at their equivalent of the Playhouse – currently in the throes of financial problems, so perhaps a few folk from Nottingham visiting the play will help them out by making the short trip down the A52.

Colin Tarrant again stars as Clough, this time in a darker comedy than the first play which has more than whiff of Faust about it, with Robert Maxwell playing the Mephistophelian role of temptor – set in the backdrop of the miner’s strikes in the mid eighties in a Notts/Derbyshire bordertown.  Sound bizarre?  Well it most certainly is, but not necessarily in a bad way.

It’s not always easy to visualise a production with costumes, scenery and full props – but the improvising using their rehearsal set did enough to set the scene, along with narrative from Lowe where necessary.  Without giving too much away, the plot revolves around Maxwell’s attempts to woo Clough to return to newly-acquired Derby County from Forest – with cues from A Christmas Carol as well as the inevitable musical interludes (although not as music-heavy as the first play).

Now to me, a Forest fan, finding his way in the world during this time, Maxwell was always a bloated pantomime villain – a swindler who stole money, and who – to top it all off – was the chairman of Derby County.  Since getting back I’ve read up a little on him I realise how ignorant I was about his history as an escaped Jewish refugee, escaping to England whilst his family perished at the hands of the Nazis.  Inevitably given his eventual position – he was clearly a canny and shrewd man.

So it took a while for me to get into the idea of him being portrayed on stage as an eloquently charming (and very pompous!) agent of temptation for Clough, during a clandestine meeting in a dingy pub function room near Christmas in 1984.  Once I had gotten over this though, the script plays out quite pleasingly with a balance of darkness and the inevitable quality one liners.  The only thing that grated slightly was that Maxwell at times threatens to steal the show.

It was very enjoyable, though – if surreal – I will certainly be interested to see the finished production, even if that does involve travelling to the badlands in order to do so.  Should your interest be peaked then the play is expected to play in the Derby Playhouse from the 16th February this year, allowing – somewhat ironically – for their financial difficulties allowing it to happen.  So do pop down and hopefully help towards getting them back on an even keel.

Even more intriguingly, Lowe has intimated that – having portrayed such a popular character so successfully there’s every possibility of making it a trilogy of Clough plays.  That’s an interesting one!  Whilst ‘In the Spirit of the Man’ was quite Forest-centric, it shouldn’t have put off Derby fans too much from enjoying the show, so I would say the same for the Derby-centricity of this piece.  There’s plenty for us Reds fans to enjoy too, and indeed, non-football fans.  So go check it out!

If nothing else there promises to be a bikini scene (alas denied us in this non-costume version – and it’s not Colin Tarrant in the bikini thankfully!), as well as a section of football commentary from the leading lady which was positively orgasmic – so there, if I can’t tempt you with culture, maybe smut will do the job!

Winning Clough statue sculptor announced..

I’m delighted to report that the sculptor chosen to take on the mantle of sculpting a legend is Les Johnson.  The pose and bust that Les submitted were my favourites by some distance, so I’m thrilled he’s earned the opportunity to create the sculpture to be unveiled later this year in the centre of Nottingham.  You can click on the picture to see a larger version of it.

Just to clarify, as there seem to have been misunderstandings on the messageboards from when the designs were submitted, the figure is to show the pose, the bust is larger and to show the sculptors ability to capture the likeness.  I can’t wait until it’s finished!  To keep up to date with all things statue-related, then keep an eye on both the local media, here and of course  Here’s the official press-release that goes with the announcement:

International sculptor Les Johnson has been chosen as the artist to create the bronze statue of legendary football manager Brian Clough in Nottingham city centre.

A selection panel including Mr Cloughs wife, Barbara, agreed unanimously that the prestigious commission should be awarded to Mr Johnson. He was one of three artists short- listed after a group of fans raised £70,000 for the project.

Les Johnson, who is based in Hampshire, was also the most popular choice in a public consultation which involved an exhibition at the Council House and views submitted by e-mail to the tribute website, the official site of the Brian Clough Statue Fund

The two other short-listed sculptors were Keith Maddison from Northumberland and John McKenna from Ayreshire in Scotland.

Mrs Clough was accompanied at the selection panel meeting by her son Simon and daughter Elizabeth. Her son Nigel had visited the display at the Council House to see the work submitted by the three short-listed artists.

It was a very difficult decision because the submissions by all three sculptors were impressive, said Mrs Clough. Id like to thank all three artists for taking part in the selection process.

I am absolutely delighted that the panel all agreed that Les Johnson should be awarded the commission. There is something very instinctive about his work and I feel confident he can produce a first class statue.

I was very impressed by the likeness of the bust he created – it captures a lot of Brians character. I also liked the pose with Brians hands clasped above his head. It conveys a sense of sharing a celebration with the fans.

Mrs Clough added that she was very pleased about where the statue would be placed, at the junction of King Street and Queen Street. I think the location of the statue is very fitting, being close to the market square and the Council House, the scene of those trophy celebrations.

I would also like to say a special thank you to the volunteers who helped to raise the money for the statue fund. On behalf of all my family I can say we are all very proud.

Mrs Clough said she was also happy to advise Les Johnson on re-creating the facial features on the final statue, as she did for the sculptor Vivien Mallock for the statue of Mr Clough in Middlesbrough.

Les Johnson said he was delighted to have secured the commission. This is a most prestigious project. Brian Clough is such an iconic figure. He was unique and deserves to be commemorated. I am so pleased to be involved in celebrating his life.

Les explained his inspiration for the pose of the statue. It is one of celebration. He is acknowledging the crowd – saying we have done it together. It symbolises his links with the city. Nottingham has done a lot for him and he has done a lot for Nottingham.

Councillor David Trimble, Portfolio Holder for Communities, Leisure and Culture, was part of the selection panel. Les Johnsons work was by far the best quality, particularly the animation in the maquette and the finesse of the detail of the eyes in the bust, bringing out that cheekiness.

The success of the statue fund in raising the money for this project has underlined just how loved and admired Brian Clough was. He was made a Freeman of the City and this statue will be a lasting tribute to the achievements of a legend who, along with Robin Hood, is undoubtedly one of the most famous people associated with Nottingham.

So great news – and movement on a project that I’m sure we’re all keen to see come to fruition!  As soon as there’s any news on progress and likely dates for the unveiling, then I will be sure to let you all know!  It’s cheered me up slightly after failing to beat Millwall yesterday, anyway!