Under the Scott Memorial Statue, Waterloo Place. From left to right: Sarah, Julia, Fleur, Christina and Tom. I'm at the front.
Last Saturday, five of my friends and I based ourselves at the Scott Memorial Statue on Waterloo Place, London. We stopped passersby and had conversations about Captain Scott and his men and about the ISCE 2012.
People were wonderfully generous with their time, and shared their insights, memories and interpretations of the explorers’ bequests to us. We wanted to capture our conversations; to show that there is lively ongoing interest in Captain Scott’s story, so we photographed each person in front of the statue and filmed clips of their thoughts on the Discovery and Terra Nova missions. The photos are on my Facebook page, and I’m releasing the videos on my YouTube channel: one a day for the next hundred days, i.e. one for each year since their deaths.
The end-result is a document of Captain Scott’s living legacy. I’m delighted that we managed to speak with 100 people in English, French, German, Spanish and pidgin everything else. My friend Julia also sweet-talked a passing walking tour party to take us in, which was a fun, soap-box moment.
We asked people what leapt out at them about Captain Scott’s endeavours; what captured their imagination. The answers took in bravery, bloody-mindedness, stoicism, scientific and aesthetic concerns and other points of interest. The responses were various and uniformly un-bland. We met a lot of extremely well-informed people, including ex-adventurers, who passed on fascinating tips and facts. I was tickled to learn from a cabbie-in-training that the Scott Memorial Statue is a testable marker on ‘The Knowledge’.
Looking over the footage again, I find it touching how each person has a particular slant or inflection to their memory of Captain Scott’s story. There were comments on the recent riots, one man remembered that an account of Scott’s story was the first book he took out from a library, and others had very keen personal associations with different aspects of the adventure. It makes me reflect that none of us can ever know what impact we’re having on the people around us.
The bronze memorial statue was sculpted by Captain Scott’s widow, Kathleen. She’d trained in Paris with Rodin. The material was paid for by public donations, after a memorial service was held at St Paul’s. It was erected in 1915, and a copy was commissioned by the residents of Christchurch, New Zealand that year. (Scott had based his New Zealand operations in Christchurch on both of his Antarctic expeditions.) Due to the short supply of metal following the First World War, the New Zealand replica is made of marble, instead.