Birmingham’s diverse cultures, communities and trades will be celebrated in a new monument unveiled in the city centre this Sunday 4th July 2021. It celebrates Birmingham’s diversity, creativity and spirit.
Forward Together is a reimagining of the city’s crest, being raised by a line of people. The reimagined, Forward crest includes quotes from Benjamin Zephaniah’s poem We Refugees – “No one is here without a struggle” and “We all came here from somewhere.” It is designed by artist Luke Perry and made by a team of Luke’s friends, including visual artist and curator Pauline Bailey, Raaj Shamji, Honorary Fellow of the Edward Cadbury Centre and MC, author Nats Perry and musician Haldin Wright. Most of the team had never worked with in a factory or with metal before. The monument was built in 14 days in Cradley Heath for a competition to be aired in October 2021 (details of the competition are currently confidential). Luke’s team who in themselves represent the diversity of the Midlands were trained in his Cradley Heath factory, where this monument was made.
Inspired by the city’s motto Forward, the distinctive new landmark brings together 25 real people as the steel silhouettes who the Team regard as extraordinary everyday people.
Raaj commented “Even though we were in the midst of a lockdown when this was made we challenged ourselves on getting real people to be models for the monument. It would have been far easier if we simply got silhouettes of people that represent the city but we decided to retain the integrity and the soul of the message where together we are stronger.”
Luke Perry is known for his public art representing those that are underrepresented. The team built this monument to addresses the imbalance of representation in public monuments. Those that have seen it, including Benjamin Zephaniah, state that this is a “symbol of Birmingham and the Midlands”. Others have said it’s a great masterpiece for diversity or simply a monument that demonstrates what happens when we all work together, supporting the city’s ethics and values.
Luke comments “I was asked to design a piece that represented my region. To me the obvious beauty of the Midlands and indeed the UK is it’s rich diversity. Growing up, my life has been made a more beautiful, cultural and exciting place because of the richness of difference that surrounded me, the diversity of life is where the colour and light was to be found.
In recent years there seems to be a growing mood of opposition in the world, we all are encouraged to find our tribe, pick a corner and cram ourselves into a pigeonhole. This piece is a view of an alternative world, yet one that exists and is working if we choose to see it. We all pull together to raise our society out of the shade.
It was the greatest honor to be able to work with friends to create this piece and to celebrate people who do not have their share of credit. It is my sincere hope that this artwork is just a small part of the massive movement to unite rather than divide our communities which in reality are already together, we just need to see our common loves rather than our exclusive differences.
In essence this piece was made with love, about love and in the hope that it spreads that love.
This is dubbed as an empowering piece that allows a conversation on representation and can be copied and adopted for anywhere in the world”.
The installation, which be on display in the city centre for 12 months, will be unveiled in Victoria Square on Sunday 3.30pm (4 July 2021).
Main Pic: L-R Raaj Shamji, Luke Perry, Nats Perry, Haldin Wright and Pauline Bailey