Engels’ Beard has a permanent home at the heart of the University of Salford’s New Adelphi campus and was unveiled in a public ceremony on 22nd September 2016. (New Adelphi, The Crescent, M5 4WT)
In the mid 1980’s, during one of Manchester’s earlier regenerations around Castlefield basin, a plan was mooted to relocate a statue of Friedrich Engels from an unspecified former Eastern Block country, to somewhere in Manchester city centre. The audacious plans seem to have attracted broad support, but failed to materialise when no suitable sculpture could be found – statues of Engels aren’t that common, and statuary depicting the original architects of the Communist Manifesto were becoming an increasingly rare commodity in the former USSR by the early 1990’s.
This project piqued our imagination when we first encountered it in the book “Manchester, England” by former Haçienda DJ, Dave Haslam. Since then, We’ve waited for a good opportunity – and for technology to advance to the point where we can effectively and affordably recreate the statue – allowing us to fulfil this vision.
As artists concerned with the playful politics of social engagement and with creating intriguing public spaces, it was never going to be enough just to make a boring statue (even if it does have an interesting story and provide a sideways comment on how municipal local politics relate to shifts in our relationship to socialism).
So the artwork has become focused on Engels’ signature magnificent beard as a symbol of wisdom and learning. And we have, in the language of regeneration and planning ‘repurposed’ the beard, creating a dramatic 4m tall climbing wall with viewing tower for people of all ages to enjoy.