The Four Bronze Commuters Of Brixton Station

Will Noble
By Will Noble Last edited 17 months ago

Last Updated 25 January 2023

The Four Bronze Commuters Of Brixton Station
A new life-size bronze figure at Brixton railway station was unveiled today (Wednesday 25, January). Entitled ‘Platforms Piece – The Return’, the statue ‘Joy II’ depicts former Brixton resident Joy Battick, aged 62, and faces her original statue ‘Joy’, created in 1986 by artist Kevin Atherton. ‘Joy’ is one of three listed statues known as ‘Platforms Piece’, which were reinstated at the station today following restoration by Southeastern. -
Pictured - the original ‘Joy’ Statue
The original statue of former leisure centre worker Joy Battick, first installed in Brixton station in 1986.

Roaring through Brixton railway station, you may do a double take at four particular figures on the platforms.

Bronze from head to-toe, and standing stock still, you might think it's a group of performance artists on their way in for a shift at Covent Garden.

Actually, the figures are part of an art installation, 'Platforms Piece' — three of them were originally put here in 1986, commissioned by British Rail as part of a £1 million improvement scheme.

Bronze statue of a woman on a platform holding a bag
Karin Heisterman was one of three models selected for Kevin Atherton's sculptures of Brixtonites.

The statues, sculpted by Kevin Atherton, depict three Brixtonites: Peter Lloyd, Karin Heisterman and Joy Battick. Atherton was keen to represent 'real inhabitants of Brixton', and convinced three locals to model for him in an old ticket office on the station platform, which he'd turned into a makeshift studio.

Their reward was to be immortalised — Lloyd and Battick as the first public sculptures of British Black people in England.

A new life-size bronze figure at Brixton railway station was unveiled today (Wednesday 25, January). Entitled ‘Platforms Piece – The Return’, the statue ‘Joy II’ depicts former Brixton resident Joy Battick, aged 62, and faces her original statue ‘Joy’, created in 1986 by artist Kevin Atherton. ‘Joy’ is one of three listed statues known as ‘Platforms Piece’, which were reinstated at the station today following restoration by Southeastern. -
Pictured - one of the original statues of Peter Lloyd
The statue of Peter Lloyd, and his bag.

Platform Pieces became something of a local landmark for those in the know — in recent years, no doubt googled by scores of curious commuters — and was listed by English Heritage in 2016.

By that time, the trio of statues had deteriorated somewhat, and were removed for restoration. Fast-forward to 25 January 2023 — some 35 years after they were first installed — and they were reinstated at Brixton station, looking good as new.

Joy poses with her new statue the Mayor and the artist
Joy Battick poses with her new statue, alongside the Mayor of Lambeth, and sculptor Kevin Atherton, in January 2023.

So where does the fourth statue figure into all this?

One of the original three statues is of Joy Battick, back in the 1980s, an employee at the nearby Brixton Leisure Centre. She remembers warily agreeing to model for Atherton, and 'feeling like a mummy being wrapped in bandages' as part of the 'lost wax process' involved with casting her bronze doppelgänger.

As part of 2023's reinstallation, Battick agreed to pose for a 'sequel' statue (called, of course, 'Joy II'), and this new likeness of the older Joy now stands across from her 26-year-old counterpart, on the other platform.

If you thought it felt surreal having a statue of yourself at a train station, try having two of them... three-and-a-half decades apart!

Joy goes face-to-face with her new statue
Battick goes face-to-face with her 'sequel' statue, 'Joy II'.

Battick attended the unveiling of her new statue at Brixton station on 25 January 2023, alongside the Mayor of
Lambeth Cllr Pauline George, and the artist, Kevin Atherton.

The two-time model was happy to report that bronze casting has moved on since the 80s, thanks to 3D scanning and 3D printing technology, and that this time no plaster or bandages were involved.