Bill and Ben, Sheffield’s legendary cooling towers, are about to be knocked down, but there is no consensus on a campaign to preserve them as a commemorative sculpture.
One of the most popular stories to appear on Building’s website this year concerned two derelict cooling towers in Sheffield, known locally as Bill and Ben the flowerpot men.
The Tinsley cooling towers are due to be demolished before the end of the year by energy company Eon, which plans to build a £60m biomass power station next to the site, to produce power for 40,000 homes.
The demise of Bill and Ben is not popular among many locals, and Sheffield art group Go is running a campaign to save them. A short film by designer Smoothe argues for the towers to be transformed into a giant art installation. While a voiceover recalls the glory days of industrialisation, animations depict a future with the towers intact.
However, the news of this transformation was met with scorn by our readers. Gareth Walton said you shouldn’t “rip down something original and then replace it with a fake replica”, while Paul Norton remarked: “We don’t need another shiny steel reminder of past glories. Leave them be.”
Almost 4,000 people have signed a petition to save the towers, including a Neil Warnock, who may or may not be the former Sheffield United manager. He said: “I inspired my players with these towers. I told them to stand tall, look mighty and they would be recognised for the mighty beasts they are – though my players sometimes toppled over, as it looks like the towers are going to.”
That might be a spoof, but the towers do have high-profile supporters. Among the 800-odd friends of the cooling towers on its MySpace site are members of rock royalty Jarvis Cocker and Richard Hawley.
Sadly Eon, which has pledged £500,000 towards a sculpture commemorating the towers, claims they are beyond repair. It recently announced that they would be demolished by the end of the year. Test explosions last week suggest this will be sooner rather than later.
Cooling towers on MySpace: www.myspace.com/coolingthetowers, Aave the Tinsley cooling towers petition: www.petitiononline.com/tct2/petition.html, Animation: www.building.co.uk/coolingtowers