In memory of the Englishman who kept a shark on his roof (UK community)

RELATED: The Headington Shark (Wikipedia)

EXCERPT: . . . in the English suburb of Headington, Oxford. The house is typical of the area in most ways, apart from the twenty-five-foot shark that sticks out of its roof, as if dropped, nose first, from the sky. [...] Buckley and Heine first had the idea to plant a shark in the roof of Heine’s house in 1986, over a glass of wine on the street outside. They’d visited the sculptures in the gardens at Sutton Place, in Surrey, and were feeling inspired. Heine was also agitated about recent political events. On the day he’d bought the house, American bombs had fallen on Tripoli and Benghazi, in Libya.

Buckley, who lives a short drive away from the house, had just returned from a sailing trip in the Pacific. “I’d been drawing a lot of sharks,” he recalled. [...] The image of a shark seemed to the men an apt metaphor for the bombs: the fear of the thunderous crash of the unknown. “Bill suggested putting a shark over the front door,” Buckley said. “I said, ‘Just stick it through the roof.’ ”

Heine and Buckley intended to install the shark—which Buckley and a willing team of volunteers constructed from fibreglass [...] on August 6th, the anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. In the end, it didn’t happen until the morning of August 9th—“which was the anniversary of the Nagasaki bombing, so it worked out fine,” Buckley explained. [...] Anne Whitehouse, who was eighteen at the time [...] remembers a crowd gathering, and Buckley and Heine posing for pictures on the roof with a bottle of champagne. “My first thought was that he would get in trouble for having the crane parked there...” she said. “Quite soon I realized he probably hadn’t sought any kind of permission at all.”

Thus began a six-year battle with the Oxford City Council over “Untitled 1986,” as Heine and Buckley called the shark. In 1990, the council refused Heine’s retroactive planning-permission request, and, in 1992, his appeal made its way to the then Secretary of State for the Environment, Michael Heseltine, who is best known for his prominent role in Margaret Thatcher’s government. Many came out in support of the shark [...] The council’s stated objection was that the shark detracted from the harmonious appearance of the street. The inspector agreed, but, in a victory for art and oddness, ruled that, as the contrast was deliberate, the shark should stay. Heseltine ... recommended that the Headington shark be allowed to remain.

A stipulation detailed that “Untitled 1986” should be “maintained” every nine months, only painted in “naturalistic colours,” and not illuminated later than 10:30 p.m. [...] David Clover finds the shark in keeping with the many carvings and gargoyles that cover Oxford’s colleges and churches. “It’s almost like an eighteen-century folly,” he said over tea in his living room... (MORE - details)

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