Search

Henry Moore’s Old Flo unveiled at Canary Wharf after dodging Hurricane Brian

PUBLISHED: 13:35 25 October 2017 | UPDATED: 08:55 27 October 2017

Henry Moore's Old Flo sculpture in its new Cabot Square home in Canary Wharf. Picture: Ken Mears

Henry Moore's Old Flo sculpture in its new Cabot Square home in Canary Wharf. Picture: Ken Mears

Archant

Henry Moore’s treasured ‘Old Flo’ sculpture was unveiled today back in east London after 20 years languishing in a field in Yorkshire and surviving attempts to sell it off, a High Court battle for ownership and dodging a hurricane.

Caught on camera... Old Flo admired by Tower Hamlets Mayor John Biggs. Picture: Ken MearsCaught on camera... Old Flo admired by Tower Hamlets Mayor John Biggs. Picture: Ken Mears

Roads around Canary Wharf were closed off during the night as a giant crane arrived carrying the one-and-a-half tonne ‘Draped Seated Woman’ sculpture and carefully lowered it down in Cabot Square.

The crane operation was a bit ‘touch and go’ after Monday’s delay in the wake of Hurricane Brian at the weekend causing blustery winds.

But the weather held and the bronze sculpture was finally lowered onto its new plinth and formally unveiled at 11am.

Mayor John Biggs seated with 'Draped Seated Woman' at Canary Wharf after legal battle by Tower Hamlets Council for ownership. Picture: Ken MearsMayor John Biggs seated with 'Draped Seated Woman' at Canary Wharf after legal battle by Tower Hamlets Council for ownership. Picture: Ken Mears

Tower Hamlets mayor John Biggs was there to greet Old Flo after a four year legal wrangle with Bromley Council over its ownership, despite Moore himself having gifted it to “the working people of Stepney” back in the 1960s.

“Old Flo is finally back home,” the mayor beamed. “This is an important part of the East End’s cultural heritage.”

But not without a bit of a bruising on the long journey to get Old Flo back.

Tory Opposition leader Peter Golds also can't resist having his snap with Old Flo. Picture: Tower Hamlets ConservativesTory Opposition leader Peter Golds also can't resist having his snap with Old Flo. Picture: Tower Hamlets Conservatives

It was shunted away from Stepney when the Stifford housing estate was pulled down in 1997 where it had been ‘seated’ outside Wickham and Ewhurt tower blocks for 35 years and climbed on by generations of children, then transported to a field in Yorkshire for safe-keeping.

But it was former Tower Hamlets Tory councillor Tim Archer who discovered its whereabouts on a visit to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park back in 2009 and began a campaign to get it returned.

His Tory colleagues were claiming the victory today with a similar pose with Old Flo by group leader Peter Golds to match the Labour mayor.

Tory ex-councillor Tim Archer who began campaign to return Old Flo in 2009 after visiting Yorkshire Sculpture Park. Picture: Tower Hamlets ConservativesTory ex-councillor Tim Archer who began campaign to return Old Flo in 2009 after visiting Yorkshire Sculpture Park. Picture: Tower Hamlets Conservatives

Cllr Golds also beamed with delight when he told the East London Advertiser today: “We are claiming the victory as Old Flo finally returns to the East End, after a campaign we started in 2009 to bring her home, back on public display.

“It survived an attempt by the disgraced former Mayor (Lutfur Rahman) to sell to the highest bidder, gone through legal proceedings to determine ownership and has endured the mud and sheep of Yorkshire for the past 20 years.

“Henry Moore’s drawings of people taking shelter during the Blitz inspired her creation and it’s right that the sculpture has a permanent home in the East End, which is what he wanted.”

Old Flo draws tourist and media attention at Canary Wharf. Picture: Ken MearsOld Flo draws tourist and media attention at Canary Wharf. Picture: Ken Mears

Ex-mayor Lutfur Rahman decided in 2012 to sell off Moore’s sculpture for hard cash, which led to uproar in the art and heritage world. The issue was raised in Parliament, forcing the embattled mayor to withdraw the “fire sale”.

Then Bromley Council in south London claimed ownership because it had been given “custody of assets” when the former Greater London Council was abolished in 1986.

But Tower Hamlets, having taken over the Stifford estate from the GLC, put the gloves on and got into the ring, demanding Old Flo’s return.

Old Flo's original home in 1962 outside Wickham and Ewhurst tower blocks at Stepney's now-demolished Stifford Estate. Picture: ELA archiveOld Flo's original home in 1962 outside Wickham and Ewhurst tower blocks at Stepney's now-demolished Stifford Estate. Picture: ELA archive

After all, it was given to the GLC’s forerunner London County Council by Moore himself at cost price in 1960 as a gift for people of Stepney and erected on the estate which the Queen opened in 1962.

The Appeal Court finally ruled last year that it belonged in the East End.

Canary Wharf Group is hosting Old Flo for five years at Cabot Square with round-the-clock security.

But a final ‘new home’ is likely to be in Whitechapel by 2022 at the new civic centre now being fitted out in the old London Hospital complex, when the Draped Seated Woman gets a permanent council home.

Latest East London News Stories

The mayor of Tower Hamlets flexed his non-political muscles at the opening of an outdoor gym on the Isle of Dogs.

Yesterday, 17:30

An engineer has been recognised for his bravery after rescuing a 13-year-old from a vicious knife attack in Bow.

Yesterday, 15:57

If you’ve ever had the desire to watch a giant piece of toxic sewage on a 24/7 livestream - well, now you can.

Yesterday, 14:56

A food festival is planned over three days in the Moat at the Tower of London next month with cooking demos from top chefs and lessons on how to decorate a naked cake.

Yesterday, 13:21

A man is appealing for help to find his missing phone, which he said contains some irreplaceable memories.

Yesterday, 09:00

The heatwave may finally be coming to an end, with the cooler weather making it the ideal time to go outside and exercise.

Yesterday, 07:39

A man is in a critical condition in hospital after being stabbed in Stepney.

Yesterday, 07:00

The Met has claimed it is one of the first forces in the country to develop its own mobile fingerprint device.

PROMOTED CONTENT

Are you a landlord looking for a fixed rental income, paid whether the property is empty or not? Steve Westley, general manager at estate agents Elliot Leigh, explains their Guaranteed Rent Scheme and how it takes the stress out of letting your property.

Newsletter Sign Up

East London Advertiser twice-weekly newsletter
Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

Most read news

Show Job Lists

Digital Edition

cover

Enjoy the
Docklands and East London Advertiser
e-edition today

Subscribe

Education and Training

cover

Read the
Education and Training
e-edition today

Read Now