Plan for Hugo bench outside Town Church
VICTOR HUGO will forever look out wistfully across St Peter Port harbour towards France, under plans for a new sculpture and bench.
Proposals from the Guernsey Arts Commission have been submitted to the Development & Planning Authority for the bench of granite and life-size bronze statue of Hugo sitting down alongside an octopus.
The idea is to create the installation outside the Town Church and make it a spot for pilgrims to visit to honour France’s greatest writer.
This location will mean it will be one of the first things seen by visiting cruise passengers coming from the Albert Pier and visiting yachts people from the harbour.
Seeing Victor Hugo on the bench may inspire and encourage them to return to the island to discover more.
The bench will allow two people to sit on it, next to the writer.
Trevor Wakefield, from the commission, hopes the statue and bench will be unveiled at the end of June as part of an event organised by the Victor Hugo In Guernsey Society.
‘We are delighted that after nearly three years of fundraising we have been able to secure the necessary funds to go ahead with this project,’ he said.
‘We are grateful to the John Ramplin Trust, Creasey’s, the Arts Foundation Guernsey, Investec and many others in the community for their donations. The St Peter Port Constables have also been extremely supportive.
‘The artist, Mark Cook, has completed the models for Victor Hugo and the octopus, and they are currently at the UK foundry being cast.
‘Once they are back in Guernsey they will be fixed to the granite bench which is being created by Granite Le Pelley.’
The concept is for the artwork to reference Hugo’s Toilers of the Sea’, the novel written when he lived at Hauteville House.
Published during his exile in the island, the story concerns a Guernseyman called Gilliatt, a social outcast who falls in love with Deruchette, the niece of a local shipowner, Lethierry.
When Lethierry’s ship is wrecked on the Roches Douvres, Deruchette promises to marry whoever can salvage the ship’s steam engine.
Gilliatt eagerly volunteers and the story follows his physical trials and tribulations, which include a battle with an octopus.
The bench will look as though it has been made from the timbers of the wrecked Durande, the granite base represents the Roches Douvres, and the backrest will be made from the tentacles of the octopus.
Victor Hugo is depicted with a copy of the book in his lap.
Toilers of the Sea was Hugo’s tribute to the island. He wrote: ‘I dedicate this book to the rock of hospitality and freedom, to that corner of old Norman land, where the noble little people of the sea live, on the island of Guernsey, tough and gentle, my current asylum, my probable tomb’.