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People appropriate 2 new memorials in London

2012 July 3

Memorial side view

flowers candle

Candle, flowers and internet story

Two new memorials have been appropriated in London in the last few days. The first is the new memorial to Bomber Command opened in Green Park alongside the Hyde Park Corner end of Piccadilly. It is an imposing piece of architecture in a classical style designed by Liam O’Connor who also designed the Armed Forces Memorial at the National Memorial Arboretum in Alrewas in Staffordshire.


However, as artists and historians – including Paul Gough and Sally J. Morgan – have shown, memorials do not have monolithic meanings and frequently people appropriate them and create their own interpretations. This has previously occurred at the National Memorial Arboretum site, as Paul Gough has discussed in his chapter in People and their Pasts.


sweeet william flowers

Sweet William Flowers and small wooden crosses on base of sculptured figures

It is already happening in Piccadilly. Despite the grandeur of the architecture and imposing bronze sculpture by Philip Jackson, people are already leaving flowers and their own stories and images.There are the usual small wooden crosses one sees on Remembrance Sunday recording individual lives but also flowers and candles with messages, more reminiscent of modern sites of memory after a sudden death such as a road accident or shooting.




The second memorial was not created as such by the artist Anish Kapoor. However, the Olympic Tower –the ArcelorMittal Orbit – has just been reclaimed as ‘A Memorial in Exile’ by survivors of a Bosnian Serb concentration camp.  The Omarska mine in Prijedor, Bosnia was used as a camp: thousands were imprisoned and hundreds killed. Arcelor Mittal is now the major owner of this mining complex. Iron ore – and profits – extracted from this mine have been used to make this sculpture.


olympics artwork

Another sort of memorial in another part of town...


As we discuss in The Public History Reader, History is never settled and finished. Even when memorials seems to be permanent and are cast in iron, bronze or stone people will always create their own meanings often subverting original intentions.


note and flowers

Flowers and message from Marie

2 Responses Post a comment
  1. July 3, 2012

    Hi Hilda,
    As you point out “Iron ore – and profits – extracted from this mine have been used to make this sculpture”. I attended the Press Conference you link to: Survivors pointed out that same iron ore contains the bulldozed remains of victims of the genocide.
    Two further items on GamesMonitor since the event:
    Has a steel giant’s power stolen my freedom of speech?
    Bosnians Call For Renaming of ArcelorMittal Orbit As ‘Omarska Memorial in Exile’

  2. July 14, 2012

    I keep trying, often unsuccessfully, to persuade self-styled ‘radicals’ that people are quite capable of subverting the ‘official’ with the ‘personal’ in this way. That people experience loss and grief and have to find ways to express it and can use public architecture like this to do so is (at least) every bit as politically radical as spray-painting ‘Anarchy’ on a wall – probably more so in terms of effective communication to others. Thanks for this one – I shall circulate the link.

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