Vandals leave blind Hitchin artist David to pick up the pieces after wrecking his public installation

Blind artist David Johnson and his work on display in Hitchin. Picture: Danny Loo

Blind artist David Johnson and his work on display in Hitchin. Picture: Danny Loo - Credit: Archant

Concrete sculptures created by a blind artist have been vandalised at a prominent site in Hitchin.

Blind artist David Johnson and his work on display in Hitchin. Picture: Danny Loo

Blind artist David Johnson and his work on display in Hitchin. Picture: Danny Loo - Credit: Archant

David Johnson and his sighted assistant Mary Sprinks assembled his heavyweight sculpture called ‘Too Big To Feel’ at the top of Windmill Hill on Tuesday last week.

But by the very next morning vandals had already attacked the artwork by turning over each dome-shaped slab – weighing around five or six stones – leaving disappointed David to literally pick up the pieces.

The white concrete sculpture consisting of a number of heavy stones depicts very large Braille, hence the name – but Mr Johnson, 61, will not reveal what the two words say.

David told the Comet: “Unfortunately when I arrived on Wednesday morning with Mary to work on the presentation of the piece I found someone had tipped the enormous concrete domes on their heads and re-positioned them.

Blind artist David Johnson and his work on display in Hitchin. Picture: Danny Loo

Blind artist David Johnson and his work on display in Hitchin. Picture: Danny Loo - Credit: Archant


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“While I’m keen for people to touch the domes, moving them and tipping them is unhelpful.

“I just want people to engage with it rather than wreck it.”

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Talented David went to art school for a year in his late teens, but as his eyesight worsened he retrained to become a piano tuner, a job he does alongside his art.

He produced the installation to raise awareness of access issues for blind and disabled people.

Blind artist David Johnson's work on display in Hitchin. Picture: Danny Loo

Blind artist David Johnson's work on display in Hitchin. Picture: Danny Loo - Credit: Archant

As the good-natured dad-of-three David explained: “The whole point is to obscure its meaning – which reflects the usual uncertainty blind people experience on a daily basis.”

David’s eyesight became progressively worse in his 20s until he went completely blind in his 30s. He is now a passionate advocate in helping blind and disabled people access art.

Inspirational David is refusing to let the vandals win as Mary and he are already working hard to assemble the public piece again – which has spent the last two years on show on campus at The Royal Holloway University of London in Egham as part of the Blind Creations Conference.

He added: “While Mary and I have been assembling and re-assembling the slabs people have been very supportive and positive.

“They were horrified when I explained what had happened and wished us well.

“The majority of people were also curious as to what the two words meant, asking if they were rude ones – but I can assure everyone it’s not.

“All I will reveal is it’s a greeting for Hitchin!”

The artwork is in association with Hitchin Initiative and North Herts District Council and will stand on the hill for the next three months.

Creativity runs in the family as his daughter Bobbie Johnson, 26, toured with Rag’n’Bone man Rory Graham, whose hit single ‘Human’ saw him win British Breakthrough Act at this year’s Brit Awards.

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