How a poignant memorial made from steel hopes to offer solace to South Yorkshire community
The new touring art installation, titled The Leaves of the Trees, made up of 5000 steel leaves engraved with the word ‘hope,’ will open in Sheffield Cathedral today. (October 3)
The reflective memorial cascades down the steps of St George’s Chapel down into the Nave, like fallen autumn leaves.
The project, supported by the Guild of Health and St Raphael, was created by sculptor and artist Peter Walker, who hails from Staffordshire.
Mr Walker, 46, said the leaves were symbolic of the times people are currently living in, with the aim of the sculpture to offer the people of Sheffield solace during this period of hardship.
He told The Yorkshire Post: "The inspiration behind it was to do something peaceful, something beautiful and something reflective. I wanted to create something which allowed the individual to have a moment out, to reflect and to consider their own experience.
"Steel has been chosen as the material to remind us of our resilience and collective strength.
“It’s a really robust material - it’s been at the heart of UK industry for centuries really, with Sheffield being at the very centre of that... There is nowhere better to showcase this then in Sheffield Cathedral, in the Steel City.
"It’s really poignant and an important thing to be show casing this here."
The use of steel was significant for Rev Canon Keith Farrow, who has been the cathedral’s vice dean and canon missioner for the past seven years.
He said: "Sheffield is a steel city, and there is something resilient about steel - and we believe there is something resilient about a community that pulls together.
"We are hoping it will give people a sense that they are together in this and that we are together and resilient.
"Hope is certainly a very powerful characteristic.... And the message of hope is like steel - it’s a very resilient thing.
"We want people to take home is that we can continue as a community, and we will move forward.”
Rev Farrow, who was also previously the vicar of a parish in Wadsley Bridge, a chaplain at Wakefield Prison, and even once trained as a psychiatric nurse, said Sheffield Cathedral has long been a place of remembrance and over the years in times of hardship.
The Barnsley-born reverend added the ‘Leaves of the Trees’ installation will be another symbol of remembrance for so many have been affected by the Coronavirus.
The 60-year-old said: “Throughout history people have gone through some dreadful things - Sheffield for instance went through the Blitz.
"We want people to understand that we have got it within us to get through this and the importance to be together as a community.
"There are sad things that will happen, and there will be tears, but we can cry together and laugh together and move forward together and be strong together.
He added: "Hope is written on our hearts as resilient as steel is."
The installation is on show until October 28 in Sheffield, before moving to seven more cathedrals round the country including Lichfield in time for Remembrance and Rochester.
Mr Walker, who is part of the team that brought ‘The Angels are Coming’ and ‘The Observatory’ to Sheffield Cathedral, added as the artwork tours the country the steel will age, rust
and change colour, just as the leaves of trees do when they fall each year.
He said: "The metal will tarnish a little bit and start to rust...that also shows how things decay over time - and the shape of the leaf shows how things come back through regeneration...so there is hope as well.
"It’s a very symbolic material. As an artistic material it allows us to convey a lot of different meanings to the general public
"In nature fallen leaves are essential to prepare the planet for spring and new growth and it is hoped that the simplicity and beauty of this installation will give people the chance to pause and contemplate their own experience, and also reflect on the wider situation that we find ourselves in."
Individual steel leaves engraved with the word ‘hope,’ can be purchased by the public by clicking here.
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