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Lawyer plans London Diana statue

Antidote to 'mess' of Diana fountain, fundraiser says

By CNN's Graham Jones

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Sculptor Boonham with clay model ... the completed bronze work will be 10 feet high.
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LONDON, England (CNN) -- A retired London lawyer has joined forces with a leading sculptor to bring a "people's statue" of Diana, Princess of Wales to the center of the British capital.

Former solicitor Jonathan Stone told CNN he was inspired to begin a campaign for the 3.3-meter (10-feet) high bronze monument to the late princess by the design of the controversial Diana Memorial Fountain.

He called the fountain -- beset by problems and closures since its launch last month -- a "luvvies frolic designed by committee" and said he warned 18 months ago it would be clogged by falling leaves and require constant maintenance. (Mud latest problem for fountain)

"Diana would have turned in her grave," Stone, a part-time charity fundraiser, said on Wednesday.

"They have made a real mess of it."

The sculptor casting the statue, Nigel Boonham, unveiled a clay model of the Diana figure, which will take another 12 months to complete, in London this week.

It shows the princess -- the former wife of the heir to the British throne Prince Charles -- in a simple floor-length evening gown -- devoid of jewellery -- and wearing a broad smile.

Stone says he has been offered a site by a firm of London property developers, Galliard Homes.

The statue will be on view on the South Bank of the River Thames next to the old County Hall building near Westminster. Planning consent is expected to be agreed in the next few weeks.

Stone now needs to raise around £200,000 by public subscription. If successful there could be two duplicate bronze statues -- one in New York and one at a location to be decided, he says.

Boonham, vice president of the UK Society of Portrait Sculptures, has created a Diana statue before and the princess sat for him 10 times.

He completed a bust of one of the world's most famous women for London's National Hospital for Neurology in 1991, which the princess unveiled herself.

"She was wonderful -- a really sweet person," Boonham told CNN.

"I wanted to portray Diana doing her charity and patronage work. It really just commemorates her good works -- nobody seems to be doing that. They have forgotten how good she was with AIDS and land mines."

When completed, anyone will be able to get close to the statue by walking up onto a low plinth, even taking the princess by the hand -- a feature of other Boonham statues including the late British leader of the Roman Catholic Church, Cardinal Hume.

Stone said that unlike the £3.6 million ($6.5 million) Diana fountain, the statue would require little maintenance.

Its accessibility will make it a "people's statue," he said, echoing the tribute to Diana as the "people's princess" made by British Prime Minister Tony Blair after her death in a car crash in 1997.

"Diana always had such a natural empathy with people."


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