A saucy statue has returned to Doncaster town centre for the first time in thirty years this afternoon.
Hundreds of people turned out to see the infamous Lovers’ sculpture lowered into place in its new home in the Waterdale Shopping Centre - three decades on from its last public appearance.
The risque statue of a naked couple embracing raised eyebrows when it was first unveiled in the Arndale Centre - now the Frenchgate Centre - in 1967.
For nearly twenty years, the gold-coloured fibreglass sculpture was a meeting point for generations of Doncastrians but disappeared from view in the mid 1980s when the shopping centre was revamped.
But the iconic artwork is now back in place - and scores of people came out to see it once more for this afternoon’s unveiling ceremony which formed part of the DNWeekend arts festival.
The sculpture was gently lowered into place on top of the glass canopy outside the Staff Of Life pub to the strains of The Beatles’ All You Need Is Love.
Regeneration specialist St. Modwen, owners of Waterdale, were behind the plans to bring the statue back. The firm inherited the piece in 2013 when it bought the centre and repairs have been carried out over the past few years to restore the couple to their former glory.
Local art group Artfuel carried out the repairs including restructuring the hands and feet, rewelding the internal fibre glass structure and recolouring to the statue which was discovered decaying in an underground car park.
Artist Amanda Hughes- Lubeck from Artfuel said: “The statue was in a state of disrepair when we began the restoration work and it has taken a considerable amount of work to bring it back to its former glory. The statue is quite delicate so it was important that it was made sufficiently robust before going back on public display.”
Following its removal from the Frenchgate in the mid 80s, its whereabouts remained a mystery until 2006 when it was announced that the sculpture had been installed in a garden in Bessacarr.
In an interview given to the media at the time, then owner Tina Gavin, explained how she had inherited the Henry Moore style artwork with her home but had been looking to part with it.
She said: “If I could do anything with it I would but we don’t want it stuck in a corner somewhere really. It’s a shame not to have it on show, isn’t it? I would rather it was seen by a lot more people. It wants to be somewhere like the racecourse, somewhere where people in Doncaster see it. We haven’t really got a lot of nice sculptures, have we?”
Ms Gavin, a property developer, ended up inheriting the statue in 2001.
She said: “When I bought the house and saw it I said ‘that’s the statue from the Arndale Centre’. There are so many people who remember it. People all have different memories of it. They say ‘I used to meet my boyfriend there’ or ‘I used to meet my mum there’ and that kind of thing. It’s made such an impression on people’s lives. It’s been out in the open but its in good condition.”
Richard Bannister, Yorkshire and North East regional mManager at St.Modwen, said: “The restoration of the ‘Lovers’ demonstrates our commitment to rejuvenating Waterdale Shopping Centre and investing in Doncaster town centre. There is considerable public affection for this statue so it is only right that it is displayed in the town.
“We hope that the statue will, once again, become the meeting place for the local community. It is good to see it back in Doncaster.”
A Facebook group, Get The Lovers Statue Back In The Frenchgate Centre, was set up last year and attracted a host of fans keen to see the saucy artwork return.