I received this reply from Mil at Pavillion Design (the designer of the bench) on Friday:
Thanks for getting in touch with me. I am disappointed to hear that 'REASONS TO BE CHEERFUL' is in need of repair again, but perhaps not altogether surprised: it was my first prototype of this product - designed as a student at the RCA in 2000, installed in early 2002 - and I think it has lasted quite well in the circumstances! Consider the problems that Apple are continuing to have with the iPod - so many returns within a year's ownership due to 'technical issues' - and a 3.5 year life-span, albeit with occasionally interrupted service, doesn't seem so bad.
There could be several possible causes of the problem:
1. water in the headphone socket - rusty: replace, although the particular component, which had a very handy integrated 'switch', is no longer in production
2. rusty solder connections: strip and redo
3. rechargeable battery out of life: replace (I replaced them both about 18 months ago)
4. MP3 players dead - hmmm: these particular players were ideal for this application but are not made anymore. Each player has its own particular 'hacking' potential/suitabilty - it would be better not to have to replace the whole system
You can see that while the solution may be simple, it may not, and I regret to say that I cannot volunteer myself to undertake it again: I really wish that this memorial could be 'guaranteed', but the truth is that I have repaired it myself 3 times now, and passed on all the technical info to the folk at Richmond Park at that point. I have to say that they took quite some convincing to accept the bench in the first place, and were wary of assuming ownership of a somewhat uncertain entity - vandalism being their most obvious concern, although to the best of my knowledge this has not been a problem. Although obviously I wish there was a kindly 'guardian of the flame' on hand, I do not really expect Richmond Park to endlessly keep it up, so am somewhat at a loss as to how to resolve the issue (although I would love to). Having said that , I have just had an enquiry about supplying some for an application abroad, so am going to think around this particular problem and see if there is a way to deliver the content in a different and more stable way, which perhaps could be retro-fitted to the bench in Richmond Park, but this will likely be some time off, if indeed I can come up with something. The sad truth is that when one is dealing with such small scale batch-production of one-off pieces, it is difficult to engineer a really stable system, as I am doing it all myself with off the shelf, 'hacked' technology - not the best way, but the only way open to me. I hope you understand.
When the issue of continuous performance malfunction was raised during my initial discussions with the Royal Parks Dept, I did point out that if the worst came to the worst, they would still have a very nice, inscribed teak bench, and that I might infill the void left by the solar panels with 2 plaques telling the story of what/why etc... Its not the best solution, but it is a solution.
Another option might be to post a request on your blog for someone with a better technical solution to get in touch?
Warner Chappell never really engaged with the project in the first place, so I am not surprised that they are not expressing interest now. Ian's lawyer leaned on them to get some money to pay me for the bench, but that was about the extent of their involvement and I wouldn't expect any more.
All of this is not really a way forward, but maybe the start of a further dialogue: I understand that the idea of the bench appealed to a lot of people (I think the day we installed it with Ian;s family etc was one of the proudest days of my life), but the sad truth is that these kinds of technology do not last forever, particularly when they are left outside for years - I assume that is understood? In the meantime I hope you will take this as an expression of sincere interest to reach a happy and appropriate solution and am sorry not to be able to offer an immediate fix.
So, there you go. There's no doubting Mil's sincerity and it would be great if he can come up with something that Richmond Parks people might be able to fit. Failing that, it would seem that, as Mil says, there is at least a nice bench there for people to remember Ian by. Just a shame if such an innovative and appropriate memorial as the musical bench can't be fully restored. Let's keep fingers crossed and maybe Baxter will have a bit more clout regarding getting Warners or the Parks people to do something. I suppose we could always try to think of something else, another way of reminding future generations of Ian's work - something like one of those trees in Lost in Translation with the message bearing ribbons attached to it, featuring our favourite Dury lyrics? Just a thought - I'm sure there's a better idea. Any thoughts?
* How many times??? IT'S **BOB**!!!!!!
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