On June 25th, 2011, approximately 3500 people gathered on Truro’s main square to be a part of the impressive unveiling ceremony for The Drummer.
One hundred drummers from all around Cornwall opened the proceedings as they converged, beating in unison, around the base of the 15ft high sculpture. In the expectant silence that followed the last drum beat, city Mayor, Rob Nolan introduced Sir Richard Carew Pole who spoke first about Cornwall’s rich artistic heritage and the importance of allocating funding to the arts, even, and perhaps especially, during difficult times such as we are currently experiencing. He explained that The Drummer “will make us all, as we pass it on our daily routes, reflect and quietly think about our history and our lives and all that goes with it.”
Following Sir Richard, Queen’s drummer, Roger Taylor, spoke a few words, commenting that he was “honoured and delighted to be involved in this fabulous and slightly controversial, in some ways, but magnificent sculpture”, before pulling the cord that finally removed the cover from the statue, revealing it to the public for the first time. Using a custom made 4ft drumstick, he then sounded the drum, as if bringing to life the sculpture now standing in its permanent home on Truro’s Lemon Quay.
The public’s reaction to the work has so far been overwhelmingly positive. For a few of Truro’s residents however, the controversy that Roger Taylor perceived in the figure has seemed cause for concern, sparking questions as to whether the drummer’s visible genitalia classes as “obscenity”. Tim Shaw responded to these worries, calling up the long history of nude figures in public art and reiterating that “the work isn’t sexual. It’s about something else; about place and people, an expression of toughness and the ability to get on and survive whatever the prevailing circumstances may be; and it’s about the sense of being precariously balanced on an edge which that often entails.”
In response to the other body of concerns which questioned the spending of public money on art in a time of government and council cuts, councillor Charlotte Mackenzie commented that although she would unfortunately feel unable to back a similar project if it arose today, she was glad that projects such as this, commissioned before the current financial crisis, are coming to fruition now at a time when the beneficial aspects of hosting a unique cultural event – lifting people’s spirits and drawing visitors to Truro – are more important than ever.