Monday, June 9, 2008

Looks like an angel

In the early days of this blog, I posted on the sculpture The Angel of the North, that stands close to the A1 freeway at Gateshead, and talked about the power of icons. It’s fantastic that my personal enthusiasm for the giant Gormley sculpture (it is 20 meters or 175 feet high) is shared by the people of England. In a recent poll taken by Travelodge, the most recognized landmark in the UK was singled out as, you guessed it, The Angel of the North.

In their research, Travelodge asked 3,000 people to identify photographs of UK landmarks. The result? Eighty-three percent of the people surveyed identified Gormley’s sculpture – way ahead of more traditional British landmarks. I suspect the reasons for the Angel’s success are threefold. First, like most great icons, The Angel of the North is a big, uncomplicated idea. Second, it represents a deeply emotional truth about the changing face of Britain, with its location near an abandoned colliery. Third, it inspires what can often be a painful truth with hope. That’s why it has raced ahead as a Lovemark. A big idea responding to an emotional truth and facing forward with hope.

Some other UK icons did not fare so well. Many people mistook Hadrian’s Wall for the Great Wall of China, and the dome of St Paul’s for St Peter’s in Rome’s Vatican City. That’s the thing about icons, they need to be kept alive and relevant in the public imagination. There is work to be done in the UK’s tourist industry. By the way, this year is the ten-year anniversary of the The Angel of the North. Join the celebrations.