From the beginning I suppose I’ve always loved simply making things, and this was nurtured through my schooling in Liverpool and the teaching of a former silversmith Mr Hickman, who instilled in me a love of materials and craft process, and a vision to become a silversmith myself.
The opportunity of studying silversmithing at Sheffield was deferred after meeting the Liverpool sculptor Arthur Dooley, who of course was very disparaging of the art college system. I decided to move my school bed to his Bear Brand stocking factory studio and began what was to become my second informal apprenticeship.
Arthur exposed me to a world of ideas, politics and religion, and a revolutionary vision of art, that can transform the world. It was about crafting metaphors, ‘putting flesh on an idea’, as Arthur would say. I remained with Arthur for four years, but during that time was encouraged to develop my own work, and when a London Gallery came looking to exhibit Arthur’s work, he dismissed them encouraging them to exhibit my own work instead. My first exhibition of small bronzes opened at the Aberbach Gallery, Savile Row, London in 1982.
Newly married I established my own practice at the Bridewell studios in Liverpool, and began life as a professional artist. I seemed always drawn to creating artwork that connected to place or people, and fell into the emerging public art movement.
I was fortunate to win commissions, and also develop public art projects, including ‘Reconciliation’ a public art project connecting the Cities of Glasgow Liverpool and Belfast, which opened up my mind to new possibilities.
Over the years the studio grew, and many public realm commissions were completed, the ʻRiver of Lifeʼ in Bridge street Warrington (1994), was another significant breakthrough in my practice opening up the idea of place making, looking at the whole space rather than simply dropping an object into a space.
The role of artists in the public realm continues to develop, the artist can uncover and interpret a community's story, helping the community to remember and celebrate, with an increasing focus on how that community inhabits their space, while recognising that the most beautiful and vibrant thing you can fill the space with, are the community themselves.
My Arthur was a big hearted and generous man who continues to be present in the studio and is still the benchmark for all I do.
Liverpool : City of Sculpture
Stephen Broadbent's presentation to an audience of over 700 people in St George’s Hall Liverpool, on Monday 19th February 2008. A slideshow of photographs by Guy Woodland accompanies the lecture.
Liverpool John Moores University (LJMU) has been running these series of lectures for over a decade and Stephen joins His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Mary McAleese, the President of Ireland, and Ken Dodd to name but a few.
Links; Guy Woodland http://liverpoolphotos.com/ Roscoe Lectures https://www.ljmu.ac.uk/about-us/roscoe-lecture-series/previous-lectures/eleventh-series-2007-08