Brixton woman turns bronze for second time

25 January 2023
New life-size bronze figure unveiled at Brixton railway station, 35 years after local resident posed for her original statue.

A new life-size bronze figure has been unveiled at Brixton railway station, some 35 years after inspiration Joy Battick posed for her original statue.

The new sculpture, known as ‘Joy II’, now stands on the opposite platform to ‘Joy’, facing her 26-year-old self. Entitled ‘Platforms Piece – The Return’, the creation of the new figure saw former Brixton resident Joy Battick, aged 62, reunited with artist Kevin Atherton, now aged 72.

As well as the new sculpture, three listed statues originally created in the 80s have been reinstated at the station. Now owned by Southeastern, the figures, known as ‘Platforms Piece’, were commissioned by British Rail after the Public Art Development Trust suggested a piece of art should be created as part of a £1m improvement scheme.

Joy II

Artist Kevin Atherton, with Joy II at Brixton railway station.

Creating ‘Platforms Piece – The Return’ was made possible by 3D artist Pedro Colaço, AB Fine Art Foundry, 3D scanning firm FBFX and 3D printers Hobs3D.

In 2016, ‘Platforms Piece’ was given listed status by Historic England, as two of the figures are ‘believed to be the first sculptural representations of British black people in England in a public art context’.

Atherton wanted his three figures to emphasise the passing of trains at the station through their positioning, and to represent the real inhabitants of Brixton. He therefore chose models who had personal connections to the area: Peter Lloyd, Karin Heisterman and Joy Battick.

After being exposed to the elements since 1986, Southeastern removed the three original statues to be fully restored. Together with ‘Joy II’, they make up ‘Platforms Piece – The Return’. Joy Battick unveiled her new bronze sculpture at the station alongside Mayor of Lambeth Cllr Pauline George and Kevin Atherton, at a VIP ceremony on Wednesday, 25 January.

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Joy Battick 1986

Joy Battick, posing beside her first statue at Brixton, in 1986.

Joy, who worked at Brixton Recreation Centre in 1986, said: “I don’t think many people can claim to have a life-size statue of themselves so to have two in the same place is quite amazing!

“Back in the 80s, all the staff at the centre were asked if they wanted to take part in the art project and I just thought ‘why not?’. I felt like a mummy being wrapped in bandages but when I saw the end result standing on Brixton platform, I knew it had all been worth it.

“Meeting up with Kevin again to pose for the second statue felt far more relaxed. It was a much easier process as I was photographed by 460 cameras at exactly the same time – I felt like a superstar!”

Although the figures are hollow, they weigh approximately 200 kilos each. The first three were cast using a technique called body casting, which involves plaster bandage, while ‘Joy II’ was made using 3D scanning and 3D printing technology. All the sculptures were cast into bronze using the ‘lost wax process’, an ancient technique which goes back to the very beginning of bronze casting.

Kevin Atherton commented: “The original artwork became a much-loved Brixton landmark, welcoming passengers as they got on and off their train or when viewed from passing rail carriages. Historic England should be commended for recognising the piece as a celebration of the cultural identity of the area and I’m delighted the three original sculptures have been returned to their home. 

“The methods we use to craft sculptures have changed significantly since the 80s; creating ‘Joy II’ and reuniting with Joy after so many years was a wonderful experience.” Peter Stapleton, Head of Facilities at Southeastern, added: “‘Platforms Piece’ is so important to the local area and as the owners of this significant artwork, we’re very pleased to have been able to restore and return the original sculptures to the platform. Having a new figure at the station will hopefully encourage a whole new generation to appreciate all the sculptures.”


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