History in Structure

Platforms Piece

A Grade II Listed Building in Lambeth, London

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Latitude: 51.4625 / 51°27'44"N

Longitude: -0.1127 / 0°6'45"W

OS Eastings: 531206

OS Northings: 175412

OS Grid: TQ312754

Mapcode National: GBR LY.VX

Mapcode Global: VHGR6.0H9Q

Plus Code: 9C3XFV6P+XW

Entry Name: Platforms Piece

Listing Date: 18 October 2016

Last Amended: 13 December 2023

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1438640

ID on this website: 101438640

Location: Brixton, Lambeth, London, SW9

County: London

District: Lambeth

Electoral Ward/Division: Coldharbour

Parish: Non Civil Parish

Built-Up Area: Lambeth

Traditional County: Surrey

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Greater London

Church of England Parish: Brixton St Paul with St Saviour

Church of England Diocese: Southwark

Tagged with: Statue

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Platforms Piece, a three-figure sculptural group of 1985-1986, by Kevin Atherton.


Platforms Piece, a three-figure sculptural group of 1985-1986, by Kevin Atherton.

MATERIALS: bronze, cast using the lost wax technique.

PLAN: the figures are positioned on two opposing platforms at Brixton Railway Station.

DESCRIPTION: the three life-size figures stand on the platforms as if waiting for trains. At the north end of the London Victoria-bound platform, a casually dressed black man stands at the back of the platform leaning against a wall with one leg raised and with his bag next to him on the platform. Opposite, near the edge of the Herne Hill-bound platform, a white woman holding a shopping bag in her left hand. At the south end of the London Victoria-bound platform, there is a standing black woman with her sports bag on the platform at her side (moved to this location from another platform, in 2023).


The period after 1945 saw a shift from commemorative sculpture and architectural enrichment to the idea of public sculpture as a primarily aesthetic contribution to the public realm. Sculpture was commissioned for new housing, schools, universities and civic set pieces, with the counties of Hertfordshire, London and Leicestershire leading the way in public patronage. Thus, public sculpture could be an emblem of civic renewal and social progress. By the late C20, patronage was more diverse and included corporate commissions and Arts Council-funded community art. The ideology of enhancing the public realm through art continued, but with divergent means and motivations.

A piece was commissioned for Brixton railway station by British Rail, at the suggestion of, and with advice from, the Public Art Development Trust in 1985. The sculpture was intended to serve as a focal point to the £1m Brixton Station Improvement Scheme, a collaboration between British Rail, the London Borough of Lambeth and the Department of the Environment.

Artist Kevin Atherton pitched an idea for a sculptural group of three figures to a selection panel, including the noted architect and designer, Sir Hugh Casson. Atherton was interested in the fleeting interactions of urban life, and his life-size figures, positioned in a straight line across three platforms, played with the notion of fixed points in the fast-paced, transitory station environment. Atherton was concerned that his three figures represent the real inhabitants of Brixton and took much time seeking the right models. The three he chose were Peter Lloyd, Joy Battick and Karin Heistermann, each of whom had a particular connection to Brixton. An old ticket office on the station platform was converted into a studio for use by Atherton to make plaster moulds of his three volunteers, which were cast in bronze using the ‘lost wax’ process. Local residents and schools were invited to watch the sculptor at work and in addition, there was an accompanying exhibition at the Brixton Recreation Centre (NHLE entry 1436440, listed at Grade II), opposite the station. A and A Sculpture Casting produced the pieces.

The sculptures were unveiled by Sir Hugh Casson on 30 June 1986, upon the completion of the station’s renovation. Platforms Piece was the winner of the Association of Business Sponsorship of the Arts Industry Year award for the best commission in any medium (1986). Atherton saw the bronze finish of the figures as a unifying quality, as the skin colour of the subjects had no bearing on their depiction. He also explained in an interview at the Butler Gallery in Summer 2022 that ‘I body-cast three people to stand on the platforms and I positioned them in a straight line in order to emphasise their stillness, their waiting, and the trains went in between. So there were two people looking at one another and the third person [Joy Battick] is looking beyond the platform.’

Brixton in the 1980s was one of the most densely populated and economically deprived parts of London. It became a popular area for African Caribbean, particularly Jamaican, immigrants to settle in the 1950s. Tensions peaked in the 1980s when housing needs were acute, crime and unemployment were high, and the recession had further depressed the socio-economic status of the area. Riots, most notably in 1981 and 1985, were a manifestation of the deep rift between a deprived minority community and the establishment, particularly the Metropolitan Police, who in the Scarman Report on the 1981 riots were criticised for disproportionately targeting black people in ‘stop-and-search’ exercises in Brixton.

Dr Kevin Atherton, born in 1950, studied at the Isle of Man College of Art from 1968-69, at Leeds Polytechnic from 1969-72 and achieved a PhD at the National College of Art and Design, Dublin, in 2010. He is a multi-disciplinary artist, working in sculpture, performance and film, amongst other mediums. He has had a lengthy teaching career, is a widely published theoretician, and has acted as an adviser to a number of bodies, including the Fine Art Board and the Arts Council England. Atherton has been commissioned for a number of public sculptural works in the UK, the first of which, ‘A Body of Work’ for Langdon Park School, was installed around 1982.

In 2023, at the request of the artist, Platforms Piece was restored and the Joy Battick figure was moved to the southern end of the London Victoria-bound platform because the platform on which it was originally positioned was no longer in use. In addition, Atherton created a new contemporary figure (Joy 2), which stands opposite the repositioned original on the Herne Hill-bound platform.

Reasons for Listing

Platforms Piece, a public sculpture of 1985-1986, by Kevin Atherton, is listed at Grade II, for the following principal reasons:

Historic interest:

* a powerful representation of multicultural Britain in a public art context;
* a celebration of the cultural identity of Brixton, home to a significant Afro-Caribbean community in post-war Britain, and commissioned following a period of unrest.

Artistic interest:

* as life-size, life-like renderings of local people, richly detailed and textural, with clothing and materials assuming an unusual quality in cast bronze.

Group value:

* the figures stand adjacent to the Grade II-listed Brixton Recreation Centre (National Heritage List for England entry 1436440), a social and cultural hub for the locality, which stands to the north of the station.

External Links

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