Social Justice

First look at Harry Kane statue hidden in storage for years: Waste of money or fitting tribute?

The Big Issue has obtained the first pictures of the unseen £7,200 Harry Kane statue, commissioned in 2019 by Waltham Forest Council

Harry Kane statue

Speculation raged over why the statue had not been seen. Image: Big Issue/Waltham Forest Council/Sculpture Machine Ltd

Somewhere in East London, a statue of England captain Harry Kane has sat dormant for years. Commissioned in 2019 by Waltham Forest Council at a cost of £7,200, some feared it may never see the light of day. But the Big Issue has exclusively obtained pictures of the artwork.

When news of the statue’s existence was revealed in February, speculation mounted over its exact form – and why exactly it had not been put on display despite being funded by public money. Pictures show Kane sitting on a bench, wearing an England kit and holding a ball on his knee.

Plans to put the statue on a platform at Chingford Station fell through. Image: Big Issue/Waltham Forest Council/Sculpture Machine Ltd

Kane’s metal doppelganger had reportedly languished in storage because nobody could find a home for it around his boyhood home of Chingford. 

The images were supplied to Waltham Forest Council by Warwickshire-based sculptors Sculpture Machine, and obtained by the Big Issue.

The sculpture was commissioned by residents of the east London borough. Image: Big Issue/Waltham Forest Council/Sculpture Machine Ltd

Emma Best, one of the councillors who commissioned the statue, told the BBC she had spent “hours and hours” trying to find somewhere to put it. Proposed locations, reported by The Guardian, included Chingford Rail Station and Ridgeway Park, where Kane used to play as a youngster. Kane’s representatives said in February “the location of the statue is really important to us”, and that “when we get it right, we will be happy to go.”

Most of the funding for the Harry Kane statue came from a pot allocated to councillors. “This Community Ward Funded community project was commissioned by residents and funding allocated by councillors,” Waltham Forest council told the Big Issue.

After we revealed them, the pictures got football fans and Waltham Forest residents alike chatting. “Am I missing something here, councils are struggling for money and Waltham Forest Council sees fit to spend £7,200 on a statue of a footballer. Think how better this could have been spent: foodbanks, warm shelter for homeless people,” said one follower on Instagram.

On Reddit, a Spurs fan put it more bluntly: “Yeah, it should probably stay hidden”.

With many saying the statue appeared to be made of chocolate – The Big Issue has contacted its makers to find out what exactly Harry has been carved out of – Alex Burd on Twitter said: “You just know it tastes of Easter Egg chocolate”.

Bayern Munich striker Kane, who grew up in Chingford, is the record, all-time highest goalscorer for both England and Tottenham Hotspur.

The whereabouts of the statue remain unknown. Image: Big Issue/Waltham Forest Council/Sculpture Machine Ltd

While the footballer’s likeness remains in an undisclosed location, public sculptures around the UK are becoming more diverse. A report by Art UK found that an increasing number of stories and experiences were being represented by statues.

“As our city centres and urban areas are redeveloped – with former centres of industry making way for new estates and social centres – these new sculptures are an important reminder to future generations of how our landscapes and lives have changed,” said Katey Goodwin, deputy director of Art UK, in 2023.

Fans of Plymouth Argyle came together in 2022 to unveil a statue of Jack Leslie, a 1920s footballer who should have become England’s first Black player.

Despite departing to ply his trade in Germany, Kane’s work in East London continues, as his Harry Kane Foundation aims to “transform a generation’s thinking about mental health”. His efforts have received accolades, including a gong at the 2023 Smiley Charity Film Awards.

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