Barrie Hudson looks at the people & events hitting the Adver headlines FEBRUARY 23-28, 1966

‘SCULPTOR Hoping for Approval’ said the headline of a minor Swindon Advertiser story this week in 1966.

As any fan of horror films knows, there’s usually an early foreshadowing scene. Something apparently innocuous happens but turns out to have been the herald of a living nightmare.

In retrospect, our story from almost exactly 49 years ago is a bit like one of those scenes.

It began: “The London sculptor, Mr Geoffrey Earle Wickham, is keeping his fingers crossed that Swindon will take to the 7ft high concrete fountain he has designed for the town’s new shopping centre.”

The first ominous note sounded immediately afterwards: “He hopes, in any case, that Swindon will take to it better than the Australian High Commissioner, Sir Alexander Downer, took to another example of his work last year.

“For Sir Alexander was more than outspoken when he saw workmen installing 46-year-old Mr Wickham’s modern sculptures in the High Commission’s new £21/2m office block in the Strand.

“‘Either it goes or we don’t move in,’ he said.

“So the sculpture had to go.”

Regular Rewind readers will have worked out by now that the sculpture planned for Swindon was the infamous Cube, installed later that year at a cost of £3,500, equivalent to well over £50,000 today.

Cast in concrete and seven feet to an edge, it was greeted by widespread burst of public outrage which soon mellowed into chronic disgust and loathing.

Within a remarkably short time the Cube was covered with slime. It soon became a popular gathering place for drunks, tramps and vandals. It was set in a pool which eventually became stagnant and doubled as an open-air lavatory and garbage receptacle.

By 1968 a survey of Adver readers’ opinions yielded gems such as: “It would be very fitting if the characters who voted to squander our money could be chained to the Thing for a few hours on a Saturday.”

By the end of the 1970s it had been removed, but lives on in Swindon’s collective memory like a long-demolished haunted house.

In rather more positive arts news, a young American folk singer still regarded as one of the best of her generation came to town.

We wrote: “With a voice that seemed soft, harsh and loud all at the same time, Dorris Henderson captivated a large audience at the Ballad and Blues Club at The Castle, Prospect, last night.

“Accompanying herself on the auto-harp – sort of a small hand harp – this 33-year-old singer from Los Angeles gave a performance only equalled by her last performance at the club, 18 months ago.

“Her voice, soft, quiet and beautifully melodic, at times she seemed to whisper her music, but every word was heard.”

Dorris eventually settled in London and went into retirement until the late 1990s. She died in 2005 but much of her music is still available.

Also showing off their singing skills that week were two local teenagers bidding for stardom.

“Relaxed and self-assured,” we said, Swindon’s ‘TV starlets’ Joy Tantrum and Brenda Meredith today faced the television cameras at the Odeon cinema.

“Joy and Brenda (both 14), pupils of Drove School, Swindon, sang a number entitled We Get Around Boy before an audience of excited school children.

“The BBC2 unit, led by executive producer Brian Lewis, is filming a week in the life of the two schoolgirls as part of the series Women Women Women which will be broadcast later this year.”

We wonder whether Joy and Brenda are among our readers.

When it came to fashion, the Sixties had been swinging for at least a couple of years, but just like today there was a difference between average size of catwalk models and that of most normal human beings.

Luckily help was on hand thanks to a new boutique in the town centre.

We said: “Kamille Ltd, a London firm which has just opened a new branch at 28 The Parade, Swindon, is a women’s fashion shop which makes a speciality of its prompt reproduction of the latest fashion ideas.

“It also specialises, wherever practicable, in specially modified versions of the new lines, so that they can be successfully made and worn in the larger sizes, enabling older women as well as today’s teenagers to ‘enjoy the fun of today’s fashions’, as the firm puts it.

“Swindon was chosen, says the firm, because of the town’s continuing expansion. It has become the sort of place where the firm’s up-to-date fashion for ‘with it’ teenagers and modified versions for the older women and the outsizes will be appreciated and find a ready market.”

Things might have been fab and groovy in the town centre, albeit with the Cube about to appear like the proverbial spectre at the feast, but at the other end of Canal Walk conditions were more akin to those of the Great War.

That was the verdict of Albion Street residents whose homes backed onto a filled-in stretch of the Wilts and Berks Canal.

In 2015 the land is a handy shortcut with a central strip of grass and some mature trees, but nearly half a century ago we photographed a quagmire there.

One woman said her daughter’s car had become bogged down for 20 minutes when she tried to access the family garage.

A council spokesman said the Borough Surveyor was preparing a report on the whole length from Milton Road to Kingshill Road.