The sculpture in Sackville Park, Manchester: Part 2
This page shows my pictures of the unveiling of the Alan Turing sculpture on 23 June 2001. You should refer to the home page of the project, written by the sculptor, Glyn Hughes, for more information about it. (I should emphasise that I was not involved in the project myself.) Go back to the
previous page for my pictures of the setting in central Manchester.
This is Richard Humphrys, project administrator, starting proceedings at noon.
In the foreground you can see the veiled sculpture, which we learned had been cast in a Chinese foundry.
The next speaker, Pat Karney, a Manchester City Councillor, called us an 'exotic' crowd. Perhaps this was because some splendid Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence were attending in full regalia. I was reminded of Alan Turing's interest in the theological concept of Total Depravity.
I have no responsibility for these identikit boyz.
|Manchester City Council had granted £2500 to the project and a further £1000 for the occasion, as well as planning permission. The other large donor was the British Society for the History of Mathematics. Dr J. V. Field, former president of the Society, was the next speaker. |
Judith Field nobly explained the Entscheidungsproblem to the crowd with great élan. This left me with the comparatively easy task of describing the rest of Alan Turing's work. I ended on a democratic note, reminding everyone that Alan Turing's 1952 boyfriend, a local Manchester lad, had also had his life wrecked by the law; they were just two amidst the myriad victims of this twentieth-century persecution. I said that the sculpture was a solid symbol that this was over for good, which was perhaps a bit optimistic.
|Judith Field and I each took a side of the covering veil and drew it back to reveal ...
||The sculptor, Glyn Hughes, then talked about its symbolism. His webpage shows a collage of many details of the work.|
Glyn's pose by his sculpture makes his Alan Turing look rather small... and not quite a world-class marathon runner... But I'm not sure what realism really means... you must judge reality from your own imagination.
We all mingled. Here's Mike Yates, who has just finished editing the Turing Collected Works. He used to be Professor in Manchester. Unfortunately I didn't get his partner Pat in the picture, but ...
...she insisted on my posing as she took this photo. Again I felt a smaller-than-life Alan Turing. I couldn't sense the bristly athlete, the mercurial hilarity and gloom, the irreverent wit, the undiplomatic observations... but I guess it's not easy to turn these into hardware.
Canal of Communication...
Crossing the road, we joined the reception in the chic Metz cafe. My foreground has caught (on the right) Glyn Hughes, Judith Field, and Richard Humphrys. But there was an extended web of other people to meet: Russian logicians from UMIST who talked to me of Solzhenitsyn, Celia Bonner who had recently produced Breaking the Code in the town of Wilmslow where Alan Turing lived... and many people who I had met only in cyberspace.
In the top left corner you see the Rembrandt pub on Canal Street; this I believe goes back to Alan Turing's time as a gay pub. I don't know whether Alan Turing was really a pub-goer, as writers for the gay-scene papers rather assumed in their generally excellent pieces about the occasion. But never mind, I'm sure he'd have emitted a piercing laugh of delight at the thought that one day he'd be featured amongst clubbing pics of lads having a good time in meatspace.
This is Jon Agar of the national archive of computing in Manchester, who has just produced a new short Turing book. We had a long talk related to my Manchester webpage debate, and much else about technology and politics then and now.
We went on to the Manto bar in Canal Street. Before I went back to Oxford I took another picture of the park, now with its figure perched on the bench... it's strange to think that this solid bronze has been launched on a cruise into the unknown century ahead...
Looking forward, looking back
The glowing red metal is a fine counterpart to its setting. Bars hotels and loft-dwellers around Canal Street have put new life into the palatial red stone and brick of the unique commercial architecture, headquarters of British manufacturing in the heyday of the Empire. Alan Turing was far ahead of his time, as I emphasised, and this re-invention of urban life makes a good setting in which to project his futurism.
Jon Agar and I had both noticed in the day's news that the name of ICL, the computer manufacturing company which absorbed all the early British developments, had finally been dumped by its Japanese buyers. This marks the very end of Alan Turing's Manchester: a hard world of heavy industry, which largely failed to grasp the importance of software. Modern Manchester has tried to find a new economic role, and perhaps can now appreciate what Alan Turing offered.
But a bleaker reflection is prompted by the fact that summer 2001 also saw vicious and bloody strife in towns across northern England. Ethnic hatreds and resentments exploded amongst those excluded from participating in this new economy. Economic class division lay behind Alan Turing's Manchester crisis, whilst the divide-and-rule policy of British India lay behind his birth and upbringing. Even the inventor of cyberspace could not escape the basic problems of the body politic, as alive now as ever. In my words I called him the most effective anti-fascist individual of the twentieth century, and I hope his image will contribute something to countering the incipient fascism of the twenty-first.
More photographs and reflections by Dr Richard Wallace of the A.L.I.C.E. AI Foundation