“Truly momentous occasion” as Covid-19 memorial unveiled in Barnsley Town Centre

One of the country’s first permanent memorial to the victims of Covid-19 was unveiled in an emotional ceremony in Barnsley town centre today (November 22).

Reverence, as the memorial is named, is dedicated to key workers and those who lost their lives during the pandemic.

The sculpture is by Graham Ibbeson, whose work includes the Billy Casper statue outside the Alhambra Centre, and the Dickie Bird statue on Church Lane.

It features seven figures cast in bronze, including a young girl, older man, volunteer, nurse, carer, police officer and a teacher, to represent those affected by the pandemic.

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The sculpture was unveiled during a ceremony at Glass Works square today, attended by HM Lord Lieutenant Professor Dame Hilary Chapman, Lord Bishop Sentamu PC of Lindisfarne and Masooli, mayor Councillor Caroline Makinson, council leader Sir Steve Houghton and MPs Stephanie Peacock and Dan Jarvis.

Youngsters from schools across Barnsley were awarded a medal during the ceremony for their drawings of key workers, which decorate the plinth.

Councillor Caroline Makinson, mayor of Barnsley told the crowd: “This is truly a momentous occasion.

“Barnsley is the first council in the country to develop a permanent memorial of this kind.

The memorial features seven figures cast in bronze, including a young girl, older man, volunteer, nurse, carer, police officer and a teacher, which represent those affected by the pandemic.

“I have no doubt that others will follow suit.

“I’m particularly pleased that schoolchildren from across Barnsley have been involved in creating artwork for the bronze plaque which is part of this sculpture.

“In years to come, I hope that they will be able to bring their children and their grandchildren, to see what they have achieved.

HM Lord Lieutenant Professor Dame Hilary Chapman said: “We’ve all seen the world wide effects of the covid pandemic, but the impact on our town and our people has been both profound and devastating.

“We have seen many, too many, people die. Too many people who are still feeling that loss, and those who are still struggling with the long-term effects of illness.

“The other privilege I have is that of being a registered nurse, still working in the NHS, and I’ve been able to work throughout the pandemic, back in intensive care over in Manchester.

“Working through lockdown meant that I saw the tragic impact first-hand, but it also meant that I didn’t feel that dreadful isolation that many people experienced.

“Today is about remembering those people who have been and continue to be affected, but it’s also about recognising the tireless and sustained efforts that many ordinary people, who have worked and volunteered throughout the pandemic, serving our community.”

Sir Steve Houghton CBE, leader of Barnsley Council added: “Today is a special day in Barnsley’s history.

“We come together to remember the loved ones we lost to the pandemic and to thank those who stood in harm’s way to keep us safe.

“Well over 900 people in Barnsley have lost their lived to the virus, leaving thousands of bereaved relatives and families to grieve them.

“Thousands more people in key jobs and occupations have worked tirelessly, and bravely, to keep us safe and to keep Barnsley moving.

“Ordinary working men and women who are the real heroes of the pandemic.”