August 12th – The Repainting of the Maypan Street Monolith

If you are a regular visitor to Sleade Yard you may, at some point, have wondered which artist put the small-building-sized concrete block in the centre of Maypan Street, placed in such a way that the road is forced to split around it, like a river around a large boulder. The answer is that whilst it may today be considered a work of art, no artist placed it there. The Monolith was never intended for the purpose it serves today, although nobody is quite sure what its original purpose actually was.

In contrast to their sturdy canvass, the artworks that adorn the edifice today have very definite creators. On the craggy south-east side, the multifaceted face has been painted as a portrait of Dané Wilder, the woman famous for her fostering of over 700 babies in her lifetime, by the artist Ewe Saronne. Each intersecting plane of concrete is painted with its own image, of her face, her hands, a close-up of her eye. The staircase-punctured western side is painted in such a way (by Quixom Stanley) that it appears that a light is coming from the top of the staircase (which begins from two metres above ground and angles into the centre of the Monolith, ending in nothing but more concrete), a skeleton standing guard at the bottom. The northern side is a single flat plain, painted as a personal map of Buentoille, drawn from memory by Omellious Brauw; it looks similar to the normal maps you can buy from newsagents and street hawkers, except certain roads are longer, wider with more detailed twists and turns than others, some of which are entirely absent.

These artworks in house paint have only been existent for a year, and today will be wiped out, something new created in their place. This years artists are Ardellor Finnacre, a performance artist, Mauve Wittenbrau, a landscape painter, and Caestus Rheums, the celebrated portrait artist. They were decided upon by the inhabitants of the surrounding houses, who make the selection each year from a huge pool of talented artists that have put themselves forward, and have been doing so since Tricciam Winzyev proposed the scheme, intended to celebrate the opening of the road, which occurred on this day in 1953. Both the road and the houses that line it were built some time after the Monolith (which was originally part of a half-finished shopping centre that never gained enough backing to proceed), meaning that the houses face in from almost all directions, and would appear eye-shaped if one were looking down on them from above.

The most popular explanation for the incongruous concrete block is that it was intended to be some central column in the planned shopping centre, although this doesn’t explain the idiosyncratic shape. It was retained after the rest of the site was removed, presumably either because of the difficulty deconstructing such a large, solid piece of concrete, or because of its curious aesthetic qualities. Unfortunately the records which would have explained this decision were destroyed in a fire in 1946, along with the blueprints for the failed shopping centre, three years after the road and red brick houses were constructed. This unusual occurrence has been seen by some as a ‘cover up’ of the Monolith’s alternate, ‘true’ purpose, which is disputed between various theories but is invariably sinister in some manner.

Most prominent amongst these theories is the idea that the Monolith is some kind of (now concrete filled) air recycler for a monarchist hideout beneath the surface of Maypan Street. There is very little evidence to suggest that this was the case, especially as there are no signs of any air shafts, filled in or no, but of course this does nothing to stop many conspiracy theorists from trying to find some access route to the alleged bunker below. Others believe that the concrete hides bodies suspended within it, or that it is a depiction of some brutalist god. Quite what inspires these ideas is unclear.

For those who dwell in the houses that look directly out at the Monolith, this apparently purposeless edifice has become a big part of their lives and identity, and long discussions were held in the past few weeks about who would be cracking open the paint tins this year. For the past three years there have been serious discussions about sympathetically painting the front walls of their houses, as well.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Festival of the Droll Bell
  • The Great Hot Pepper Extravaganza
  • The Festival of the Seventh Extractor