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Thursday, 11 November 2010

Seconds Out! Wheres Bartok?

In 2004, when a seven-foot statue of the great Hungarian composer Béla Bartók by sculptor Imre Varga was majestically unveiled outside South Ken Tube, there was great rejoicing among the Hungarian community in London. Rightly so.

The Hungarian Cultural Centre and the Peter Warlock Society, named after the British composer who brought Bartók to London in 1922, had long lobbied for him to be recognised. Bartók’s Mikrokosmos was performed by the Guildhall Brass Ensemble at the unveiling, conducted by the late Sir Charles Mackerras.

Then, suddenly, and without apparent warning Bartók disappeared last year as part of the "improvement works" performed by RBKC.

Despite protestations from Bartók-lovers, there is still no agreement on bringing him back again. What had the great composer done to deserve the same treatment meted out on sculptures of Stalin and Saddam Hussein? they asked.

It seems the planning application to return the bronzed figure is in but the wheels of bureaucracy grind excruciatingly slowly. Locals and supporters seem to be furious the statue is to be replaced not in its former glorious position overlooking the tube station piazza, but shoved outside a mansion block of flats a few steps away from the station.

Oh dear. Perhaps the furore this is causing up in planning is one of the reasons why the proposal to shift the clock donated by the Kensington Society in the town hall from its current wall location to make room for more mayoral honours has been quietly dropped.

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