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Sculptor pays tribute to Kemp's clowning achievement

The Shakespearian fool Will Kemp and his dancing companions are to be celebrated in a life-size sculpture, as HELEN ASHWORTH writes in the Eastern Daily Press.

A monument capturing the famous antics of a 17th century actor's London to Norwich jig is to be cast in the city - 400 years after his notorious leaping caper.

Shakespeare's clown Will Kemp and his three Elizabethan companions who danced the morris from the capital to Norfolk are to be caught in a lifesize wood carving at Chapelfield Gardens.

At present the local hero is honoured only with a little green wall plaque in St John Maddermarket. But soon the faces of Sly, Bee and Spratt, the original Kemp's Men, and Will Kemp himself will begin to emerge from the trunk of a 15ft oak.

Bungay sculptor Mark Goldsworthy will start the work, commissioned by Norfolk Contemporary Art Society, as soon as final planning permission has been agreed by Norwich City Council.

The carving will stand on the plinth in the middle of the garden formerly occupied by the Gurney Clock, which is now in Castle Mall. The figures, illuminated at night, will be seen dancing around the tree. Mr Goldsworthy will work on the site for eight weeks to complete the memorial.

"Once the idea came it seemed obvious," said Robert Short, chairman of the NCAS. "Will Kemp danced in either 1599 or 1600 so it is the 400th anniversary of his exploits.

"The dancer is said to have arrived in Norwich at St Giles' Gate and to have jumped over a wall at the Maddermarket. St Giles' Gate is not there any more but it is very close to Chapelfield Gardens. The plinth where the Gurney Clock once stood is now free, and it seems a fitting place to have a tribute."

Mr Goldsworthy, 37, said: "I am hoping to get it completed within two months. It is quite a physical task, but doing it in situ means people can watch as it moves from a tree stump into the finished carving."

The project should be under way by April at the latest.

Meanwhile, three Norfolk morris dancers are preparing to retrace Kemp's steps and dance the 125-mile route in eight days.

Dave Steward, Steve Conneely and Mark Jones will form part of a 12-strong team preparing to go the whole distance to commemorate the 400 years since Kemp set out for a bet after falling out with the Bard.

Dozens of other morris dancers from various groups will complete part of the route as a relay on April 15.

links:

Re-enactment of The Nine Daies' Wonder

2000 EASTERN COUNTIES NEWSPAPERS, February 21st, 2000

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