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Standing with Giants

I have been to several art installations which reflect on the Covid19 pandemic.  I have covered “In Memoriam” Luke Jerram’s flag creation that visited Aston Hall. The flags were blue and white and made from hospital bed sheets.  They were stunningly arranged in a medical symbol. “This is Gratitude” is an Art installation of 51 sculptures championed by Dame Zandra Rhodes. The figures visited Chamberlain square in central Birmingham and were painted by several artists.  These two installations were colourful, moving and told stories about different aspects of the Pandemic. 

Standing with Giants
The front and ….
Standing with Giants
The grounds of Coombe Abbey make a superb setting for the installation
Standing with Giants
The backs of the figures with the messages of thanks and hope.

Would I go and visit a third installation by the “Standing with Giants” organisation?  This post tells the story of my visit to the installation. I nearly missed it and only picked up on the tour via a photographer I follow on social media.  The beautiful grounds of Coombe Abbey were the setting for the visit.  Standing with Giants consists of 300 figures cut out of industrial recyclable materials. On one side, there are colourful paintings of key NHS workers.  When you first encounter the figures, you are struck by how many of them there are.  Already there are emotional touches to the installation as bouquets of flowers have been left at the feet of some of the figures. 

Standing with Giants
Playing hide and seek amongst the figures
Standing with Giants
Having fun
Standing with Giants
Sandy writing her message

Chloë, my grand daughter, started playing hide and seek amongst the figures and I followed her deep into the art display.  As I turned around, there was a surprised waiting for me.  The backs of all the figures were black and there were messages written in white.  The sight of all the black figures wearing white face masks is extraordinary. It was different to the colourful front facing view. The messages were a mixture of thanks, hope and remembrance. The were both moving and a joy to read.  Clive, one of the volunteers, came over to us and handed us one of the white writing pens. Sandy is an ex nurse and she penned a message on back of one of the figures.  We spent a good 15 to 20 minutes taking in the messages and the sights.  It was a different approach and I am fortunate to have seen three different installations that make you think, challenge and also help in reflection about many of the individual tragedies that happened during the pandemic.

Standing with Giants
More of Coombe Abbey

Finally…..We just want to say thank you to Clive who was one of the volunteers on the day we visited ‘Standing with Giants’. Clive explained what to do with writing the messages and showed us where the white marker pens were kept. A friendly face to the installation. Thank you.

Standing with Giants
Clive an enthusiastic volunteer assisting at the Installation.

Gratitude public art

This amazing exhibition of sculptures pays tribute to the sterling efforts of the NHS and key workers during the pandemic.  The 51 sculptures, each with their own unique take on the days of the pandemic, is on tour around the country.  The first stop was Chamberlain Square Birmingham.  Several artists came together to illustrate each sculpture with a particular theme.  The overall creative ambassador was Dame Zandra Rhodes and there were many different art organisations collaborating on this public art project.  Much of the information is on the Gratitude web site.

The sculptures from the Gratitude public art.
The sculptures from the Gratitude public art.

We had tickets for the August Bank Holiday.  Arriving in the square, the sculptures are placed towards the back.  They are arranged in rows and have a mirrored backdrop.  The challenge was to take photographs that no one else had taken.  I had previously looked on social media and seen all the different variations.  I enjoyed the story telling aspect on each Sculpture.  I want to say statues but that would not do justice to the explosion of art that is on view.  They are fun to wander around and see people’s reaction. 

Gratitude Public Art
Faces of Lockdown or “The Boris Johnson Sculpture”

The Faces of Lockdown referred to as the Boris Johnson statue is an immediate favourite although there are many others included Hans inspired by the Clap for the NHS and my personal favourite Creative Resilience which features a dancer, and her stare is penetrating, grabbing your attention.So here is my photographic record of Gratitude and I have put a caption with each picture to provide a background to the experience of seeing the sculptures. All pictures were taken with my Fujifilm x100v

If you found this post interesting then please visit my account of In Memoriam by Luke Jerram which was exhibited near to Aston Hall

For more information about Gratitude please visit the following pages. There are several websites includint the official Web site, Wild in Art and NHS charities together.

Gratitude public art
There is genuine excitement and interest in the stories behind each sculpture.

Footprints advising where to stand on the escalator

The restrictions will be lifted on the 19th July but we are not coming to the end of the pandemic.  We are entering a new age of living with the virus.  The discussion about mask wearing continues, the sun is shining and society needs to open up.  Is this a good time? Vaccinations are high and therefore the government is confident (if this is the right word) that the restrictions can be lifted.  For my photography journey. I wanted to catch life during the final days of the restrictions.  I was in Solihull to collect my glasses in Touchwood. I was armed only with my iPhone. The following black and white pictures give a brief insight into the mask wearing and restrictions that will soon be a thing of the past.  Let’s just hope so!

Mask wearing in Touchwood
An elderly couple wearing masks in Touchwood
sharing a kiss - no masks
Just outside Touchwood a younger couple share a kiss – no masks
Masks on or off
Masks on or off?
Social distancing
Keep apart but the writing is starting to fade
Touchwood
Segregated corridors in Touchwood
social distancing
Only one urinal in use
Social distancing
When you are buying your cards and gifts
Flower stall
Still selling flowers
Covid19 shop
The most popular shop in town is the Covid one
Solihull and Covid19
Have we done our part, have we done the right thing?

Read more
BBC news about the easing of the Lockdown
My stories about the Lockdown when I visited Solihull Town Centre in January 2021


Hillmorton Locks

Look up any reference on Hillmorton Locks and they are quoted as being the busiest along all of the UK canal waterways.  Found on the outskirts of Rugby, they are a hidden gem as accessing them is not straightforward.  From the south, the locks are approached via a narrow entrance tunnel under the West Coast Railway line.  Once through this, then there is parking available at the local parish church St John the Baptist.  There are three sets of locks and the lower lock has a workshop and a few bridges.  Nestling on the banks of the canal was a small inviting coffee shop which is getting ready to open. 

Hillmorton Locks
Hillmorton Locks

The locks themselves are unusual in that there are two side by side.  This was to ease congestion due to its position on the canal network as being the main highway south to London.  The second of the locks is after a gentle curve in the canal and this is different as the lock beams have letters carved into them.

Hillmorton Locks
inscriptions on the lock gates

Locklines consists of a poem of which four lines are on the lock gates at Hillmorton.  At first I wondered why they had been placed in the gates but then it made sense reading the article on them.  They are interesting lines

WORKING WATER
CAPTIVE FOR A WHILE
CLIMBS CAREFULLY DOWN
THIS DOOR MAKES DEPTH

There were three poets involved and one designer and the weblink provides more details on how it all pieces together.

Hillmorton Locks
Looking down from the upper lock

It is then a straight walk up to the third and final lock.  This provides nice views back down the locks and the criss cross pattern of the gates makes for some nice pictures of the canal.  The canal then moves onto run past a new housing estate that is built on the old radio masts that used to be a feature of Hillmorton.  I remember both as a boy and young man taking the train down to London and passing the Rugby antenna masts that were tall structures in the Landscape.  Little did I realise that many years into the future that I would be passing them again but under different circumstances.  Walking back down the locks provided different views including glimpses of the Church of St John the Baptist which were especially pleasing to photograph with the locks in the foreground. 

Hillmorton Locks
Details around Hillmorton Locks
Hillmorton Locks
Details around Hill Morton Locks
Hillmorton Locks
Details around Hillmorton Locks

I am glad that I lingered around the middle lock as my attention was caught by a signpost that had the directions Vaccine and New Normal.  There was even a strange red ball structure on the top that I realised was meant to represent a corona virus.  Further investigations revealed that there was a third sign with Way Out.  Clambered over the gate I looked around to see where it led.  Nothing to see until I turned around.  The back of the sign was inscribed with different lines about the Covid19 pandemic and these included

No Hugs
Mask uo
No PPE
2 metres
Clap NHS
Rule of 3
Bubbles
Home workers
Pubs shut
…..plus many others. 

The whole list maybe seen in the photograph and I have highlighted the post for clearer viewing.  It is great fun and it is still continuing I expect.

Hillmorton Locks
The post with a record of the pandemic written down.

Finally I had a quick look at the Church which was quietly sandwiched between the railway line and the canal.  Spring is starting and the blossom was just opening.  I will revisit when the leaves are fully on the trees and the lovely café is open for a cup of coffee or tea. Enjoy the pictures!

Hillmorton Locks
Church of St John the Baptist

More information
Locklines tells the story how the poem was put into the lock gates
The Canal and River Trust have lots of information about the area
My previous blogs on the Canals in the West Midlands
Walking along the North Stratford Canal
– Lockdown 3 walking along the Grand Union Canal