During my recent afternoon in Liverpool I walked down Bold Street, a street of independent shops and eateries. About half way along the street, in a square in between a couple of night clubs, is a semi-abstract sculpture of two people embracing. I’ve passed it many times without really taking the time to look at it properly. But this time I stopped for a while.
Subsequent research revealed that it was a work by Stephen Broadbent, the Chester based sculptor who created the memorial to David Sheppard I’d jus been looking at in the Anglican cathedral.
It’s original purpose was to represent the healing of religious differences and there were copies in Belfast and Glasgow. All three cities were once noted for religious divisions and sectarianism between Catholics and Protestants. These differences have been largely, but not completely, healed in modern day Liverpool. Success has been more limited in Glasgow and, particularly, Belfast.
The idea of reconciliation has now been extended internationally with two other versions installed in Cotonou (Benin) and Richmond, (Virginia, USA). These were, with Liverpool, the three points of the so called “slave triangle”. A shameful period of history when the trade in humans was a major factor in the increasing prosperity of Liverpool merchants.
A copy of the sculpture was handed over to representatives of the Benin Government, n October 2004, at a Civic ceremony hosted by the Maritime Museum on the Albert Dock in Liverpool. At the ceremony the leader of City Council said
”the only way to bring reconciliation is to face the pain of history with courage, and then to change. We have begun that process of change, and this reconciliation initiative is one more step on that journey.”
A sculpture cannot repair the misery caused by this obscene trade, but the project shows a willingness to recognise what was done and if it makes just a few people stop and think then it will have achieved something.
There’s more information about the project on Stephen Broadbent’s website.