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Memorial to aid workers would not spoil Heath views, insists charity

‘Gingerbread men’ sculpture ‘would be visible but not prominent’

12 May, 2019 — By Dan Carrier

How the sculpture could look

THE charity behind plans to create a permanent memorial next to Hampstead Heath in honour of aid workers killed while trying to help others says the sculpture deserves public support.

Sir John Holmes, head of the Humanitarian Aid Memorial Committee, hopes the chosen location – the grounds of Kenwood House – would be seen as a good choice.

“We do not want to spoil the environment of the Heath,” said Sir John, who has held high-ranking posts with NGOs, the UN and government bodies providing emergency relief around the world. We understand why people would worry about that. It might be that nothing can ever be built there and we cannot persuade people otherwise, but from our point of view we do not feel it would spoil any views. We hope it would be visible, but not prominent. We hope people will support the piece.”

The New Journal reported last week on a difference of opinion over the artwork – a ring of 15 figures holding hands – which emerged at a meeting of the Heath’s management committee last week. One member said the structure looked like “gingerbread men”.

While others appreciated the motive behind the memorial, not all agreed with the location. Even if the City of London, which manages the Heath, supports the artwork, planning consent might still be needed. The Humanitarian Aid Memorial Committee holds an annual event at Westminster Abbey, but wants a permanent space for quiet contemplation.

It has been searching for a site for more than two years.

The charity has already raised £400,000 and com­missioned artist Michael Landy to create the work. Details of the history of humanitarian work will be etched into the green metal. The Kenwood estate already features sculptures by Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore in its grounds.

English Heritage, which manages Kenwood, has said it would not fit in with Humphry Repton’s historic landscape and that a spot among trees at the top of the Stable Field – with views stretching across the London skyline – would be more suitable.

Sir John said: “We would hope it could become part of the Kenwood House offer eventually and provide something that is a bit different. We want it to be something people will come across and learn about humanitarian work. We want it to be in a place that lends itself to reflection and contemplation, but also not so far off the beaten track that it gets no footfall.”

He added: “It has been quite hard to find a site in central London, which is full of memorials. Most councils have said: ‘Thanks, but we have enough already.’ We looked at Kenwood House, which already has modern sculpture in it. We spoke to them and they were interested in it and found the site.”

The Heath management committee will consider whether to back the plan in June.

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