View from the Plinth

Written By: Peter Abrahams
Content Copyright © 2009 Bloor. All Rights Reserved.

would it be like to stand on the fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square?

Jane Scaysbrook
decided to find out and applied for an hour slot in the One &
Other project by Antony Gormley. To record what she saw and felt she
took along her favourite tool, her computer with the voice
recognition system Dragon NaturallySpeaking.

Her moment came at
5 AM on July 10 and here is a little of what she wrote: “I’d
never have thought that London would be quite so lively at 5:30 in
the morning here we are in Trafalgar Square watching the world wake
up, the sky is clear but a few clouds over to my left but they don’t
look particularly threatening. Trafalgar Square has 1,2,3,4,5,6,7
avenues going off it and each one of them leads to a place steeped in
history and beauty.”.

Jane had tried to
prepare for everything especially the rain or the cold, but what she
had forgotten was that the wind might affect Dragon’s ability to
understand her. She normally uses her dictation system in the
relative calm of her study. Luckily the wind dropped and then Dragon
worked well. She went on to describe what she could see from the top
and also her memories of being in Trafalgar Square at other times:

The Olympic
celebrations “I came here for the Olympic parade that was
amazing I was in London anyway I quickly walked here took me about 10
minutes and I pushed my way to the front like I normally do ! All the
Olympians were sitting on the stand over there… ”

Diana’s funeral
“…went down through Whitehall eventually arriving at
Westminster and I remember a little way behind her funeral cortege
there were her two sons and on top of the coffin there with their
tribute and it was signed to Mummy… ”

A few days after
the event I spoke to Jane about One & Other and her daily use of

One & Other is
the latest in a series of temporary modern art installations on a
plinth in Trafalgar Square that has been empty ever since the square
was developed.

In a previous
/business/compliance/content.php?cid=8090 I
wrote about Mark Quinn’s sculpture of Alison Lapper pregnant. This
was controversial because it showed Alison, an artist who was born
with only vestigial arms and legs, naked and pregnant.

One & Other
continues Antony Gormley’s interest in involving the general public
in his art. The installation will last for 100 days and every hour a
different member of the public will inhabit the space at the top of
the plinth and do whatever they wish. 2400 people chosen at random
from those who applied giving a wide cross-section of the UK
population including of course Jane.

Jane works as an
assessor for people with dyslexia. Following an assessment Jane
writes a report on their condition and what assistance they need. She
first came into contact with Dragon NaturallySpeaking when it was
recommended in her school to one of the students. Before passing it
to the student she decided she really ought to understand how it
worked and therefore how it should be presented to the student. She
was so impressed by its ease of use that she decided that it would
greatly improve her own productivity and she now writes all her
reports using it.

A report starts
off as an Excel spreadsheets which she fills in completely just by
dictating to Dragon. She has recently started using a radio-mike and
is very excited by the freedom this gives her, she can now walk
around the room finding information in reports and documents in her
library and still dictate the results into the spreadsheet. When the
spreadsheet is complete she does a mail merge that creates the final

When I asked if
there were any further improvements she would like to see in Dragon
she said “I am now on Dragon NaturallySpeaking release 10 and I
really cannot think of any other improvements I would like to see.
The only thing I would like to see is more people using dictation
software. I recommend it to everyone, not just to people with
dyslexia, it is more productive and enables people to be more

I would like to
thank Jane for sharing her experience on the plinth and with using
Dragon. If you want to see more of her or any of the other plinthers
go to .

Note to the
reader: This article was dictated on my Mac using software that has
the Dragon dictation engine embedded into it.