Giant heart at Meadowhall gets pulses racing about towering Steel Man sculpture

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A giant heart which will rest within The Steel Man statue towering over the M1 has been unveiled at Sheffield's Meadowhall shopping centre.

The Heart of Steel helps viewers grasp the sheer scale of the 32-metre tall figure it will fit inside, which has been described as South Yorkshire's answer to the Angel of the North, and is enough to get the pulse racing about what will be a spectacular sight to behold.

Artist Steve Mehdi and ex-steelworker Terry Mansell with the Heart of Steel sculpture at Meadowhall

Artist Steve Mehdi and ex-steelworker Terry Mansell with the Heart of Steel sculpture at Meadowhall

Standing 2.4 metres tall and made from 36 curved panels weighing in at over a tonne, it was unveiled today in the parade outside the jewellers H.Samuel by its creator Steve Mehdi and some of the huge team helping to make his vision a reality.

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Around 12,000 people have already paid £20 each to have their names engraved on one of the panels, helping fund the estimated £4.5 million cost of building the new landmark while raising thousands of pounds for the British Heart Foundation.

Among those commemorated is the late Rotherham comedian Barry Chuckle, who was one half of the Chuckle Brothers.

The heart will eventually feature 150,000 names, which will become part of the landscape when the sculpture is lifted into The Steel Man's chest, and you can still donate to get yourself or a loved one recognised.

How The Man of Steel sculpture will look

How The Man of Steel sculpture will look

Today marks a major step towards getting the Steel Man sat upon the hillside, looking down on the motorway, where it is hoped he will be in place in 2020.

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Steve first dreamed up what he envisages as a beacon for the region, commemorating both South Yorkshire's industrial past and its reinvention as a world-leader in specialist engineering, nearly a decade ago in 2009 - a year after the Tinsley Towers disappeared from the skyline.

The steelworker-turned-sculptor, who has worked closely with his wife Jane and a huge supporting cast on the project, was thrilled to see the Heart of Steel in place.

"This is the culmination of many months of work by a big team which has managed to overcome some major hurdles," he said.

The Heart of Steel sculpture at Meadowhall is 2.4 metres tall and weighs over a tonne

The Heart of Steel sculpture at Meadowhall is 2.4 metres tall and weighs over a tonne

"One of the things which most excites me about the Steel Man is how it's a collaborative endeavour, not just with the many companies involved but with the individuals who share a passion to get the statue built and the Heart of Steel placed inside.

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"This region's history is steeped in steel and coal but a lot has changed. Where you once had thousands of people going through the gates or down the pits each day, you now have many fewer people working in automated factories as part of the advanced manufacturing industry which is regenerating the region.

"We think this project touches on an emotional thread running through the community, and the stories shared with us by people who have donated testify to that."

The Heart of Steel is accompanied by an interactive kiosk, which can be used to locate names on the sculpture and to learn more about the project, and by a scaled-down model showing how The Steel Man will look.

Artist Steve Mehdi with the Heart of Steel sculpture

Artist Steve Mehdi with the Heart of Steel sculpture

It will remain in place until the man is built and it can be craned into place following a procession up the hill, where the man will be seated on a plinth doubling up as a viewing platform.

That day might not be too far away, with Steve explaining how he and his team have already secured around half the funding needed and hope to have the remainder in place soon.

Numerous companies have lent their expertise, labour and materials to bring the Heart of Steel to life, from Doncasters Bramah, where volunteers gave up their evenings and weekends to put the striking sculpture together, to Maher Limited, which provided the metal from which it is made - a super alloy called Inconel which is used in Formula One.

Meadowhall's marketing director Richard Pinfold, said: "It's an amazing project which really celebrates the past and future of the steel industry in the region, and it's fantastic to see it coming to fruition.

"I watched one woman with a background in the steel industry finding her name and immediately welling up, which demonstrates its power.

"It's going to be a special day when the Steel Man is raised on the hill, especially for all those people who've donated to have their names engraved upon the heart, and if you haven't done so yet you'd better be quick."

Terry Mansell's name appears on the sculpture, alongside those of his wife Pam and their daughter Joanne.

The 76-year-old, who grew up in Sheffield and now lives in Barnsley, has steel running through his veins.

He worked from the age of 15 to 60 as a furnace bricklayer, following in his father Wilfred's footsteps, while his grandfather John Barlow earned a British Empire Medal for producing parts for battleships during the Second World War, when he was known as the 'cod', or big fish, at Firth Brown Steels where he directed operations on the factory floor.

It was at Firth Brown where Terry met Pam, who was working as a nurse there and tended to him after an accident with a circular saw left him with a gaping wound.

The couple were overwhelmed to finally see the heart sculpture bearing their names.

"Working as a furnace bricklayer was a hard job, with the heat and the trauma, but it was a job I enjoyed and took great pride in doing," said Terry.

"When I left school, they wanted me to go to art college because I was quite artistic, but there's a beauty to bricklaying and we all took great pride in the intricate structures we created, even though they were going to be burned.

"I love being a man of steel and I think this statue is brilliant. I can't wait until I'm driving along the M1 coming up over the viaduct and Iooking up at the Steel Man on top of that hill."

Terry will never forget the day he met Pam. Having visited her to get his dressing changed, he says it is thanks to her magical touch he today has only a 'blueish mark' on his leg where the saw cut almost to the bone, rather than a 'deep groove'.

On their wedding day, he got a splinter, and when she offered to treat it he joked 'it's alright, I'll get the nurse at work to take a look'.

Sadly, Terry's wounds were not the worst Pam had to deal with during her time at Firth Brown.

In 1984, an accident left a worker covered in molten steel and although nothing could be done to save him she braved the ferocious heat to stay by his side comforting him and providing some relief from the agonising pain before an ambulance crew arrived.

Terry told how her face was left 'black as a coal bag' and her tights had burned off her leg by the time she had finished tending to the worker, and she was nominated by firefighters to receive a bronze medal for the courage she displayed that day.

Nearly 35 years later, it is fitting that a monument like The Steel Man will soon honour people like Terry and Pam, along with the men and women who went before them and those who are today keeping the region's manufacturing industry thriving.

* For more about the project, and to donate to get a name engraved, visit www.thesteelman.co.uk.