The Elephant & The Tortoise
Public Artwork commissioned by London Borough of Waltham Forest
The 4m x 2m tall stainless steel sculpture commemorates British Xylonite's Halex Factory which stood on this site in Highams Park between 1897 and 1971. Employing upwards of 1000 people at anyone time, it was hugely influential and the local area literally grew up around it. The factory was run by British Xylonite practically invented plastic - Parkesin, later to become known as Celluloid was initially used to make substitute ivory and tortoiseshell products.
One of their original trademarks was an etching of an Elephant and Tortoise walking arm in arm which Barford took as inspiration for this sculpture.
The company at one point held a world wide monoploy on the production of table tennis balls, hence the 40mm perferations in the sculpture. One thing that struck the artist, who lives locally, was the lack of identity of the area. There is a sense of excitement and energy for change in Highams Park and this is reflected in this iconic image that acts as a lit beacon come nightfall. It is hoped that the area will adopt this image as its unique identity that not only celebrates its past but also looks forward to the future.
photography Thierry Bal