Designer of saucy Doncaster statue sees artwork for first time ever

The designer of an iconic risque Doncaster statue which raised eyebrows when it was first unveiled his finally seen handiwork for the very first time - nearly 50 years after coming up with the idea.

Monday, 6th June 2016, 4:10 pm
Updated Monday, 6th June 2016, 4:18 pm
Designer Eck Selke with Mandy Keating, who was involved in the statue's restoration, Waterdale centre manager Rebecca Berry and his wife Josie.
Designer Eck Selke with Mandy Keating, who was involved in the statue's restoration, Waterdale centre manager Rebecca Berry and his wife Josie.

Architect Eckehart Selke was behind the popular 'Lovers' statue which returned to Doncaster town centre last year after three decades in the wilderness.

The saucy sculpture - which shows a naked couple embracing - was the centrepiece of the Arndale Centre - now Frenchgate Centre - when it opened in 1967.

The statue in the Arndale Centre.

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Mr Selke was the man behind the sculpture but never saw his creation in place. However, he saw it for the very first time last week when he flew in from Australia on a special trip.

He came up with the design while studying in the UK in the 1960s - but headed back Down Under before the sculpture was commissioned and designed and promptly forgot all about it.

He said: "I was in the UK between 1964 and 1967 as a student architect.

"My duties included general drafting on various projects and in particular the then new Arndale Shopping Centre at Doncaster.

The iconic risque sculpture.

"I was asked by the architect in charge of the Arndale to travel to Doncaster in order to come up with any appropriate ideas for a mall centrepiece. I returned to the office with a pencil sketch on my cartridge paper drawing pad."

Mr Selke's sketch showed a man and a woman, without clothes, standing hip to hip each with both arms stretched upwards.

"My boss expressed the thought that my design may be totally inappropriate but that he would nevertheless present it to the owner. That was the last time I saw my sketch. In those days we had no copying facilities other than photography and as far as I knew no copies were ever made of my sketch."

Mr Selke returned to Australia in 1967 with his wife and new baby, giving his design no more thought.

The statue in the Arndale Centre.

But a 1988 trip to Yorkshire with his current wife Josie jogged his memory - and the pair drove over to check out the statue.

However, when they arrived, they found the centre was in the middle of its transformation into the Frenchgate Centre - and there were no signs of the statue.

He said: "I was then even more convinced that the owner would have thought my idea too risque at that time to have approved it. We returned to Australia without another thought about it."

The story then fell off Mr Selke's radar once more until 2013 when having met a woman in Australia who hailed from Doncaster, his wife decided to conduct more research.

The iconic risque sculpture.

"Josie promptly Googled the Arndale Shopping Centre and discovered a picture of the controversial sculpture, then called "The Lovers," he said.

"She showed it to me, I recognised the image and our search for its current whereabouts began."

The pair discovered that the sculpture spent several years in a Doncaster garden and at one stage was offered to Doncaster Museum but was too large to be accommodated.

The much-missed statue, which sparked outrage when it was first unveiled, returned to Doncaster town centre last summer when it was unveiled in all its glory in Waterdale Shopping Centre after three decades out of the limelight.

The Lovers, the meeting place for thousands of Doncastrians in the 1960s, underwent extensive restoration work to return it to its former glory.

Work included restructuring the hands and feet, rewelding the internal fibre glass structure and recolouring with artist Amanda Hughes-Lubeck from restorers Artfuel leading the project.