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ICONIC HORSE: Plans approved for Ray Lonsdale Vaux statue

ICONIC HORSE: Plans approved for Ray Lonsdale Vaux statue

Artist Ray Lonsdale with his metal sculpture 'Gan Canny', Image: Elliot Nichol Photography

A new sculpture is to be installed in Sunderland city centre paying tribute to the history of Vaux, after plans were unanimously backed by councillors.

Sunderland’s iconic dray horses, that walked the streets of the city centre until the closure of the Vaux Brewery site, will be put in focus as part of a new corten steel statue by Ray Lonsdale.

The piece, entitled ‘Gan Canny,’ is one of three designed by Ray, the creator of Seaham’s famous Tommy, with the artist spending 14 months developing the Vaux piece, which is to be installed on the corner of Keel Square.

Gan Canny

The 'Gan Canny', Image: Elliot Nichol Photography

It is expected to be in position by early December, with the two further pieces yet to be revealed but expected to be installed separately at different sites across the Riverside Sunderland development.

The life-sized statu, which captures two men with the dray horses with a cart full of Vaux beer, includes details like wheel spokes and a realistic recreation of a bucket carrying sculpted horse mess hanging on the side of the cart.

Councillors on Sunderland City Council Planning and Highways (East) Committee unanimously approved the proposals on Monday evening, praising the sculpture as a “very good fit” for the location

Labour’s Cllr Karen Noble said: “I think it’s an absolutely stunning piece of artwork, it’s a credit to Sunderland, and I think it captures the nostalgia and history of the Vaux site.”

Conservative Cllr Michael Dixon added: “It’s just lovely, sometimes we can look back a little bit too often, but this one’s great.

“It reminds me of Vaux beer, going into the Brewery Tap, seeing something which is brilliant, which is part of Sunderland sadly gone.”

A report from council officers, recommending the plans for approval, outlined how the artwork recognises Sunderland’s brewing history with Vaux “operating within the city for 162 years prior to its closure in 1999.”

Mr Lonsdale, whose family are from Sunderland, still has a strong connection to the city, and said it has been a privilege to create the artwork.

He added: “I am just so flattered though, to have been given the chance to create something that celebrates the past in a city that is focused now on the future.”

Councillor Graeme Miller, leader of Sunderland City Council, added the response to the piece has been “absolutely incredible.”


Words: Nic Marko, Local Democracy Reporter

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