6D Text

My work is about memory and how we remember. It is also about how we memorialise. Is it the small things or the grand gesture that remind us of who we are, and where and what we have come from? And has the digital age utterly changed the way we remember? Leicester’s massive stone War Memorial to the dead of WWI in Victoria Park (centre right), designed by Edwin Lutyens, is on the grand scale. So, in a different way, was the city-wide outpouring of grief over the death of
Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, the Leicester City FC Chairman (lower centre left). One is an enduring stone monument, the other is now a largely digital memory, with multiple dispersed images of so many symbolically draped blue and white scarves.

Sometimes, it is possible to create a memorial that is both personal and public. A Stolpersteine is a ‘stumbling block’, a 10cm by 10cm concrete cube faced with a brass plate which is inscribed with the names of those displaced or destroyed by the Nazi extermination programme. Initiated by German artist Gunter Demnig in 1992, who has made over 70,000, they are fixed permanently in the street outside the victim’s last place of residency. Those for my grandparents and mother (centre) are outside the site of their house in Dresden.

My mother’s memorial stone and my grandparents’ graves (top right), which I rarely visit, are in the Jewish cemetery in Golders Green in London. But every morning I put on my mother’s simple gold and coral ring (top left) and feel as if I carry her with me. My family deeply appreciated their British identities and passports and might have been horrified at my application in 2013 for a German passport (top centre). What I thought of at the time as a symbolic gesture, has now turned out to have a very different meaning for me; my children and my grandchildren all now have EU passports. How different my family’s lives might have been, if they had had an alternative nationality as a means of escape in the 1930s. Some memorials are about place and the site they occupy. The Berlin Jewish Museum (bottom left), designed by Jewish architect Daniel Libeskind, is a conceptual building with the history of Berlin, the Jews and the Holocaust embodied in its materials, zig zag forms, underground access, slanting axes and massive voids. The site of the gruesome murder of a transgender woman, the ten metre pink stone triangle (bottom centre) in the Parc de la Ciutadella in Barcelona is the first monument in Spain dedicated to the LGBT community. Used as a symbol of denigration by the Nazis, the pink triangle has in recent years been reclaimed by the LGBTQ+ community as a badge of pride.

Some events, like the march for Leicester City’s Chairman, are of the moment and are given ample media attention. Was it ‘compassion fatigue’ or something more sinister on the part of the media that so little coverage was given to a memorial in September 2016, when Parliament Square was covered in a ‘graveyard’ of life jackets (bottom right) in memory of the thousands of refugees who had died at sea. The decrepit life jackets in this memorial, collected at refugee camps, were originally provided by human traffickers who did not safety check them because they have no concern for their victims or their fate.

How do we reconcile after the terrible acts of war? I am the Vice Chair of the Dresden Trust, a small charity started after German unification in 1993 to help rebuild Dresden, in particular the Frauenkirche, destroyed by the bombing. With funds raised countrywide, the trust commissioned a
Golden Orb and Cross (top left) which now stands on top of the cupola of the Frauenkirche as a symbol of enduring friendship. Nowadays an essential part of the Trust’s work is organising exchange visits for pupils in Dresden and British schools to further friendship and understanding.