“I’ll hold my human barrier” – London’s newest war memorial is unveiled in Southwark

16 November 2018

London’s newest memorial to those affected by war and conflict will be unveiled at a special dedication ceremony in Southwark on Tuesday 27 November.

The Southwark Memorial was commissioned by Southwark Council, with support from Lendlease and the Contemporary Arts Society, and designed by Scottish sculptor Kenny Hunter. It takes pride of place in Elephant and Castle’s new public space – Walworth Square.

The striking bronze artwork has been installed in the year that marks the centenary of the Armistice and the end of the First World War, and its dedication ceremony will complete the anniversary events that have been taking place across the borough. But the sculpture has been commissioned to commemorate all the lives that have been affected by war and conflict around the globe, including the lives of members of the armed forces, civilians, refugees and others.

The memorial’s contemporary design depicts an anonymous figure of a youth standing on a giant, fallen ash tree. It bears the inscription “Against the armour of the storm I’ll hold my human barrier” – a line from a World War Two poem by Hamish Henderson.

Artist Kenny Hunter said: “My ambition was to make a memorial for Walworth Square that was open, unsentimental and able to express human endurance in traumatic circumstances.” 

Cllr Peter John, Leader of Southwark Council, said: “It is beyond important to remember the devastating impact wars and conflicts have on people, from those who make the ultimate sacrifice for their country, to the families they leave behind and the communities who are displaced, driven from their homes or living under the constant threat of attack.

“This memorial stands to commemorate all these, but also represents the optimism and hope that remains as we look towards a better future for our children. I am very proud to have this beautiful piece of artwork in the heart of the borough.”

Fabienne Nicholas, Head of Consultancy at the Contemporary Art Society, said: “We are immensely proud to see the Southwark Memorial now home in Walworth Square. The sculpture is not only a great work of contemporary public art but also offers a centrepiece for local people to reflect on themes of war and conflict through a perspective of hope and looking to the future. Kenny Hunter has interpreted the memorial as an inspirational space and place for people from all walks of life, bringing meaning and life to this new civic place.”

Southwark Council would also like to thank the groups and individuals whose valuable insight and knowledge were involved in the selection of the sculpture including the Imperial War Museum, The Royal British Legion, The Cuming Museum, Artists Studio Company and youth workers at InSpire at St Peter’s Church.

The Mayor of Southwark, Cllr Catherine Rose, will lead the dedication ceremony, which starts at 10.45am. It is a public event and everyone is welcome to attend.

Page last updated: 16 November 2018