Lincoln Imp

Photo credit: Peter James Samuel Cooper

The Lincoln Imp is a small devilish creature who was sent from the underworld to cause havoc. In theory, to put an end to this destruction, an angel turned the imp to stone. The imp has been watching from his position on an arch inside Lincoln cathedral for a few hundred years. Visitors spend a long time hunting for him so I won’t say which arch…

Last October I noticed some plans for a Lincoln Imp Trail. A design for a large impish creature was unveiled. Its facial features were too small and it had an unfortunately positioned leg which was regarded as phallic by some observers.

I emailed the imp makers to suggest they looked closer at the real imp’s face. Maybe they could reconsider their design? They thanked me for my feedback but claimed their imps were not based on any specific imp(!) It must be a coincidence that their imp has been designed to perch with hands resting on one leg. Sitting in that position fits a character who peeks out from an arch of greenery, artistic license would allow some movement.

Recently the full size imps have appeared in the city. The tale of the hilarious phallic statues has reached the national press. Not all publicity is good – but maybe a shameful council that plans to close Lincoln’s Usher Gallery will realise that people really do need to be more visually literate.

A Wild in Art spokesperson said: “The mischievous response on social media is in the spirit of the imp and shows that people are looking forward to this event”.

Lincoln Imp, carved limestone.

“Once decorated the sculptures, which are based on Lincoln’s iconic imp will make a vibrant, colourful and fun art trail celebrating the city.”

Now they’re saying it’s based on a specific imp, will they admit it lacks any mischievous spirit? It’s dispiriting to think that sculpting skills were so much livelier in previous centuries. My own stonemason ancestors must be whirling in their tombs.

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