One of the UK’s first permanent Covid Memorials set to be unveiled in Barnsley

A bronze memorial sculpture will be unveiled in Barnsley next week to commemorate those who have lost their lives or loved ones during the continuing pandemic, as well as serving as a tribute to key workers and unsung heroes.

‘Reverence’ features seven figures cast in bronze, including a young girl, older man, volunteer, nurse, carer, police officer and a teacher. The inspiring figures span all generations and communities and represent the real, ordinary people who have been affected, and continue to be affected, by the pandemic.

The unique artwork has been created by acclaimed sculptor Graham Ibbeson in collaboration with Lockbund Foundry, with poet Ian McMillan providing the emotive words ‘Barnsley’s fierce love holds you forever in its heart’.

Drawings of key workers by local school children have been turned into a stunning bronze panel, which decorates the plinth.

Guests including HM Lord Lieutenant Professor Dame Hilary Chapman, Lord Bishop Sentamu PC of Lindisfarne and Masooli, local MPs and Members of Barnsley Council, together with representatives from the Council and key partners, will join bereaved families, key workers and members of the public in Barnsley’s new Glass Works Square for the unveiling ceremony.

Celebrated gospel singer Janine Dyer will open the event with a rendition of Amazing Grace and there will be several speakers and readings, ending with Lord Bishop Sentamu PC of Lindisfarne and Masooli who will deliver a message of hope before he and Dame Hilary, together with key workers, unveil the artwork at 2pm

The sculpture is one of the first permanent Covid memorials in the world and unique because it features ordinary working people who are hugely under-represented in public art.

Council Leader Sir Steve Houghton, CBE said: “This memorial project is an enduring work of art to remember those we’ve lost and to commemorate the incredible efforts of those that worked, and continue to work, so tirelessly to look after us and keep our communities going.

“It is a tribute to the real heroes of the pandemic, the ordinary working people of Barnsley and the country as a whole. Working people as a group are vastly under-represented in public art and we are proud to be at the forefront of recognising them in this sculpture.”

Barnsley Hospital Chief Executive Dr Richard Jenkins said: “It’s wonderful to see this tribute to the hard working people of Barnsley who dedicate themselves to serving their community. Everyone working in healthcare has been greatly affected by the pandemic, and it is right to take time to reflect on the variety of people and professions that have brought us this far.”

Sculptor Graham Ibbeson said: “This is a memorial to people who have passed and in recognition of those who keep this country going. It’s a sculpture of hope and will be the first permanent memorial of its type in the country. I was honoured to give my time to be involved with this project.”

Ian McMillan said: “I’m proud that this memorial will be a tangible reminder for generations to come of the terrible times that visited us and how we stared them in the face and, despite terrible losses, carried on.’

‘Reverence’ is part of a wider project of remembrance and reflection organised by Barnsley Council and partners including Barnsley Hospital, Berneslai Homes and the region’s emergency services.

An exhibition linked to the Covid Memorial Project will be on display in the new Gallery@ The Glass Works, allowing for ongoing reflection and messages of commemoration and support.

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