Little did I realise that minutes later I would be sharing my interpretation of what Aspire really was with Nottingham University's Vice-Chancellor, Professor Sir Colin Campbell, after I had stepped outside the reception area where they were serving tea and coffee to the media. I had gone outside to get a picture looking in only to find that I had been followed by a gentleman with a Scottish accent, who asked me what I thought of it, then saying 'I think it's stunning, don't you?', to which I replied 'It reminds me of one of those seaside lattice ice-cream cones… I can just imagine it full of ice-cream'. I then introduced myself and asked him who he was, little realising that I had been in conversation with the top man!
After a couple of speeches, the media folk present were asked to put on safety helmets and go outside so they they could see the final section of the Aspire column put in place. I'm not sure why we were given hard hats to wear as the action was a fair distance away and had Aspire come crashing down on you, having a hat on would have not stopped you from being smashed to pulp!
I took a few pictures of Aspire's top section being lifted into place. To summarise, Aspire, including its 10m concrete base, stands 60m high, which makes it taller than Nelson's Column (52m), the Statue of Liberty (46m) and Angel of the North (20m). Including its foundations, it weighs 854 tonnes. The name 'Aspire' was chosen after a competition among University staff and students and it is meant to reflect 'apiration, inspiration and ambition' on the part of Nottingham University and the City of Nottingham.
Aspire's top section was slowly lifted into place…
…whilst the media looked on and gathered on the side of a boulevard of water and Japonica trees, which will run across the campus and a diverted Triumph Road from east to west (or is it west to east?). For my part I was more taken with the water feature than Aspire, which I had thought, for some reason, was going to be located at one end of the landscaped boulevard and act as a huge sun dial, casting a long shadow over the water at a particular time of the day. Sad to say, this is not case, but there was an unexpected bonus in what stands at the east end of this new watery boulevard — the Lenton Flats. In my mind they stand for 'aspiration, inspiration and ambition' as well and are a tribute to Nottingham City Council and countless other councils, who all wanted to see ordinary working class people given decent homes to live in, so that they could live better lives and their children could live in surrounding conducive to learning and, yes, ambition and aspirations. Forty years on their future hangs in the balance, but seeing them along a boulevard of water I just hope that whatever happens to them and the land, it continues to make a statement on behalf of ordinary people as bold as Aspire endeavours to do for the University and learning.
Aspire's top section is finally put into place and the workmen make ready to join the sections together…
…and as I left to make my way home down Triumph Road I geo my first proper glimpse of Aspire complete and wondered what its nickname will be? I had already heard it being described as 'a wastepaper basket' and 'a torch' and, later, on the TV news as, yes, an 'ice-cream cone'. I am sure that when the students return from the summer vacation they will come up with much more imaginative names. Nicknames can be a sign of derision or affection and I am sure that in Aspire's case it will be the latter. As much as I would like to join Sir Colin in believing that it 'is stunning', I am afraid it is no Nelson's Column, Statue of Liberty or Angel of the North. I suspect that, at best, it will become a curiosity attracting the attention of passers-by, whilst earning a place in local affections. Time will be the judge.
When I got home I went into the park and, there, peeking just above the trees along the Derby Road side of Lenton Recreation Ground, was Aspire. It can be seen from the park. It has made its mark on the Lenton landscape I love the most and I am happy to see it there. I wish Aspire well and I will visit it again, but I await the completion of the watery boulevard with its Japonica trees even more!
The French president, Nicolas Sarkozy told Israel today to share sovereignty over Jerusalem with the Palestinians and to stop building settlements in the occupied territories.