Barnsley’s Covid Memorial to commemorate the lives lost and in recognition of its key workers

Heartfelt words created by renowned Barnsley poet and broadcaster Ian McMillan will shine a message of love on Sunday 14 February.

The words ‘Barnsley’s fierce love holds you forever in its heart’ will appear in the window of the Library @ the Lightbox in a bright neon installation, designed by local artist Patrick Murphy.

Ian McMillan has written this dedication for Barnsley’s Covid Memorial, which is being designed and produced by local artist and sculptor Graham Ibbeson in collaboration with Lockbund Sculpture Foundry. This powerful phrase will be engraved on the plinth.

Ian said: “I’m very proud that my words will be part of the memorial sculpture and that they’ll be lit up at Library @ the Lightbox.

“Language can shine and illuminate our thoughts and offer us comfort in terrible times, and I hope these words will offer help and inspiration.”

The memorial sculpture will represent those who lost their lives and serve as a tribute to key workers and unsung heroes of the pandemic. It will be located in the new Glass Works Public Square in the heart of the town centre this November.

One of the first towns across the country to commission a permanent Covid Memorial Sculpture, Barnsley is paying tribute to those who have lost their lives and acknowledging the admirable and inspirational contribution of key workers, volunteers and local communities during the pandemic crisis.

Barnsley’s ground-breaking approach is demonstrated by the commissioning of a special sculpture that will feature ordinary working people who are hugely underrepresented in sculptures across the world.

Graham Ibbeson, an artist and sculptor with an international reputation for his figurative style is creating a sculpture that will depict seven figures cast in bronze, demonstrating that everyone has been affected by Covid and represent a tribute to key workers. The figures include a young girl, older man, volunteer, nurse, carer, police officer and a teacher – representing different generations and various communities and be reflective of everyone that has been affected throughout the pandemic.

Graham said: “I am honoured to be part of the team creating a permanent memorial to those that have sadly lost their lives to Covid in Barnsley, and to honour our key workers.

“With this work we are paying tribute to the incredible work of our key workers and the ordinary people that have bound a community together; we are literally putting these ordinary working people on a pedestal, acknowledging their extraordinary, efforts, sacrifices, and skills in protecting our community, and giving us hope for the future.”

The neon installation which will be on display in the Library @ the Lightbox, will launch a series of Covid Memorial engagement activities, starting with ‘Message in a Bottle’ which is an initiative for people to share their experiences of the coronavirus pandemic by adding their thoughts, feelings or stories to a postcard in the shape of a bottle, designed by local artist Patrick Murphy.

If you have an experience or story from the pandemic you’d like to share, you can download the digital postcard download here.  You can share it with us on social media @HearMyVoiceBsly on Facebook and @HearMyVoiceBsly on Twitter, add #MessageInABottleBarnsley or email it to

Words gathered from this engagement activity will lead to the creation of additional neon artworks for the unveiling of the sculpture this November.

Other creative activities will also take place, with school children being invited to create drawings of key workers that will be incorporated into a plaque on the plinth of the sculpture, as well as photographic studies and portraits of our key workers. 

Leader of Barnsley Council, Sir Stephen Houghton CBE said: “This memorial and project will mark one of the most challenging times in our history and be a permanent piece that will endure for many decades.

“It will be a key focal point in our new public square and provide a place for people to visit and commemorate those they have lost and remember the incredible efforts of those that worked tirelessly to look after us and keep things going.

“We are very grateful to both Ian and Graham who have offered their time and services for free by way of demonstrating their love and support to Barnsley, its residents and communities at this difficult time in our history.

MP for Barnsley Central and South Yorkshire Mayor, Dan Jarvis said: “Over 100,000 people have lost their lives to this wretched disease across the country – including hundreds here in Barnsley. Every death represents a family in mourning and a community devastated.

“It is enormously heartening that Barnsley will commemorate those residents whose lives have been cut short by Covid. I am hugely proud to have worked closely with Steve Houghton and Barnsley Council to ensure that we pay a fitting tribute to them and mourn their passing.”

A partner steering group including artist Graham Ibbeson and poet Ian McMillan, together with representatives from the NHS, front line emergency services, key workers and volunteers, is overseeing the project to support the creation of something that shows recognition, remembers the people who have lost their lives to the virus and provides a lasting memorial for future generations to visit.

From a town and people that pride themselves on their fierce passion, Barnsley’s spirit and resilience has shone through at a very challenging time.  The Covid Memorial to commemorate the lives lost and recognise the efforts of key workers, is Barnsley’s way of paying tribute and thanking all those that have kept the borough going in the most difficult of times.

Visit for more information and to download the digital postcard. 


The image is a maquette (sketch) of the sculpture and is not the final version, which will be of exceptionally high quality.

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