Mary Loveday & Jason Hirons

Mary Loveday & Jason Hirons

Using two (ostensible) public drinking fountains in Plymouth, Mary Loveday and Jason Hirons have created a work of creative non-fiction writing which examines the intersection of public health and private self-interest or self-promotion.

Mary Loveday is an independent writer, researcher and creative practitioner based in Truro. Her work investigates how we live and how we might like to live within environments and limits and our own experiences and desires. Jason Hirons is an educator, artist and poet based in Plymouth. His work connects to the stories hidden in plain sight in the city of signs and his Masters by Research project involved rewalking Outlands, the landscape where Scott of the Antarctic grew up, attempting to reveal the traces places, and spaces that the maps got wrong.

In Plymouth there is a fountain that is not a fountain: Derry’s Clock Tower was intended in 1862 as a “personal” gift to the Prince of Wales by William Derry, Mayor of Plymouth. However, he did not intend to fund the whole work, and persuaded the Plymouth Board of Health (he was its chairman) to provide the base and tower on which to mount the clock. The base is set up to be a drinking fountain, but it has never worked as one.

On the Hoe, there is another drinking fountain. Built in 1881, of pink and grey granite, and octagonal in shape, it is inscribed: ‘Presented to the Town of Plymouth by Charles Norrington of Abbotsfield in memory of his wife Marianne Norrington 1881’. This fountain works.

In Victorian times, water was the carrier of killer bacteria. In 2020, people are the carriers of another danger to life in the form of a virus, that precludes gathering together in meeting places like Derry’s Tower, or on the Hoe.

Both monuments were designed to produce at least the image of benefaction and care for the population of Plymouth. Water, at the time, was either bought, or often dirty to the point of being dangerous to life. The alternative for the working poor was beer, or gin, to drink, and when the poor drank any of these, whatever the consequences, they were seen as failings of the individuals rather than the system. They were free to choose what to drink, in a way, though these choices can be critiqued. Their freedom was of a strange and dangerous kind. The parallels are stark.

Mary Loveday & Jason Hirons

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