Belgrade Theatre sculpture, memorial for Bryan Bailey by Norelle Keddie
Outside the Belgrade Theatre is a memorial statue for Bryan Bailey, sculptured by Norelle Keddie in the early 1960s. Bryan Bailey was the first director of the Belgrade Theatre. He was appointed by the Theatre here in Coventry before its opening in 1957 (it was the first new theatre to be built in Britain after the Second World war). Bryan, before he started to work in Coventry, had been the General Manager and Secretary of Guilford Repertory Theatre. He became well known as a director, introducing modern socialist theatre especially Arnold Wesker plays including ‘Chicken soup with barley’ which was premiered at the Belgrade in 1958, which typified Wesker as an ‘angry young man’.
Unfortunately Bryan Bailey’s life was cut short when he was killed at the age of thirty eight in an motorcar accident on the motorway in March 1960. He was on his way to the Theatre Royal, Stratford for his production of ‘Never had it so good’ at the same time the third play of Arnold Wesker’s trilogy was in rehearsal at the Belgrade. He was just coming into his power as a theatre director. Funds were raised and Bryan’s mother commissioned the statue and the city ‘s Policy Advisory Committee paid for its installation. It was first made in fibreglass and epoxy resin and unveiled in 1962, but over time the weather got to it and it was removed. It was re-cast in bronze in 2008 at the Tanat Foundry in mid Wales by developers Oakmoor Deeley as part of the Multi million pound development of Belgrade Plaza.
Not much is known about Norelle C. Keddie the artist. She lived and exhibited in Edinburgh after the War until the 1960’s. She did many works that were exhibited. One big commission was to design and make various fibreglass murals for the new Park Boy’s Club in Swindon under architect William Cecil Bowe which opened in 1960.
The Bryan Bailey memorial is of a human figure looking up with arms raised. Wrapped around are two large masks, one happy the other sad representing the comic and tragic masks that symbolise drama and theatre. The effect is one of emotion as the actor moves and dances ‘the act of life and death’.
Sculptures by Norelle Keddie at Park Boys Club in Swindon.