The abandoned floating head of Glasgow Garden Festival

The Floating Head was one of many pieces of public art commissioned for the Glasgow Garden Festival. PIC: Owen McGuigan/My Clydebank Photos.
The Floating Head was one of many pieces of public art commissioned for the Glasgow Garden Festival. PIC: Owen McGuigan/My Clydebank Photos.
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It was a centre piece of the Glasgow Garden Festival - a giant head that floated on The Clyde like a boat.

Here, Dr Kenneth Brophy, senior archaeology lecturer at Glasgow University and author of the Urban Prehistorian blog, tracks down the sculpture in its latest home next to a scrapyard in Renfrew.

The Floating Head is propped up by a scrapyard 30 years after it was commissioned for the Glasgow Garden Festival. PIC:The Urban Prehistorian.

The Floating Head is propped up by a scrapyard 30 years after it was commissioned for the Glasgow Garden Festival. PIC:The Urban Prehistorian.

The Floating Head was one of many pieces of public art that were commissioned for, and displayed at, the Glasgow Garden Festival in 1988.

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This seminal and fondly-remembered summer event took place on the south bank of the River Clyde about 4km to the east of the current location of the Head.

The souvenir brochure of the Glasgow Garden Festival notes that the artwork, which could be found at The Marina, was essentially a boat - “British Shipbuilders Training...helped to fabricate Richard Groom’s astonishing floating head – in reality a cement boat – in the harbour itself.”

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The Festival ended in September 1988 and was dismantled, with various bits of art scattered around Scotland.

At what point the Floating Head was floated downstream to its current location I do not know.

The Head now sits on the south side of the Clyde, near the Renfrew Ferry terminal, in an industrial estate accessed via Meadowside Street.

It has its own record in the National Record of the Historic Environment (canmore). HES fieldworkers visited this monstrous head on 14 May 2015, and noted: “It now sits on the south bank of the River Clyde, adjacent to a scrap yard.

It comprises the lower hull of a boat with a fibre glass moulded head on the top. It currently stands upright on its prow and appears to stare north across the river.”

Dr Brophy added: “Someone who works in a garage beside the yard the big Head sits behind told us that it had been there for at least 20 years, and that this place used to be a boat yard which might be why it was brought here.

The Floating Head floats no more, but close examination makes it clear that it has many boat-like traits.

And now it has been erected, propped up, still an artwork but a very different one, a megalithic head watching boats travel up and down the Clyde, a source of puzzlement and wonder to all those who fall beneath its gaze.”

- Dr Brophy’s account first appeared on his Urban Prehistorian blog.