To mark the publishing of the second Concrete Grove book, Silent Voices, author Gary McMahon continues his series about the real life buildings and places that helped to inspire the Concrete Grove novels and keep them firmly grounded in a sense of reality…
Postcard #3: The Angel of the North
The steel sculpture is of an angel, standing 20 metres tall, with the wings measuring 54 metres across. The wings are angled 3.5º forward, which Gormley said he used to create "a sense of embrace". It stands on a hill on the southern edge of Low Fell, overlooking the A1 and A167 roads into Tyneside, south of the site of the Teams Colliery. 21m deep concrete piles anchor the structure into the ground, and yet still there is the sense that it is about to take flight. Work began on the 1 million-pound project in 1994 and the Angel was finished in 1998.
I love the Angel of the North. It somehow manages to represent the region’s lost industrial past but at the same time point towards hope for the future. It’s a beautiful thing; it lifts my spirit, makes me smile. The sculpture features heavily in the second Concrete Grove novel, Silent Voices. I combined it with one of my favourite pieces of art – William Blake’s America: A Prophecy – to create the surreal nightmare imagery in one of the main sections of the book.
Over the years most of the antipathy that was initially directed towards the Angel has faded. People have mellowed towards its now iconic presence. The sculpture is often used in films and TV ads to represent the northeast of England, and I cannot think of a better image to symbolise the unique attitude and mind-set of the region.