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PAYING TRIBUTE: Ray Lonsdale Vaux statue update

PAYING TRIBUTE: Ray Lonsdale Vaux statue update

Ray Lonsdale with ‘Gan Canny’ artwork, Image: Elliot Nichol Photography

A new sculpture in Sunderland city centre paying tribute to the history of Vaux is expected to be given the stamp of approval next week.

Sunderland’s iconic dray horses, that walked the streets of the city centre until the closure of the Vaux Brewery site, have been put in focus as part of a new artwork 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 stunning Vaux piece.

The life-sized statue, 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.

Ray’s other two sculptures are expected to be unveiled in future and installed separately at different sites across the Riverside Sunderland development.

Next week, Sunderland City Council’s Planning and Highways (East) Committee will decide on plans to install the Vaux statue at Keel Square.

A report prepared for the panel states that the artwork will recognise Sunderland’s brewing history with Vaux “operating within the city for 162 years prior to its closure in 1999.”

Comments from the council’s conservation officer, included in the planning report, say the piece will provide “an attractive and symbolic reminder of an important part of Sunderland’s history.”

The planning report goes on to say: “The proposed siting of the sculpture is considered appropriate, being located on one of [the] former historic routes along which the dray and horses would have travelled to and from the Vaux Brewery and within the new Keel square where it will be visible to the passing public.

“It is considered that the sculpture is an attractive piece of public art that will make a positive contribution to Keel Square, Bishopwearmouth Conservation Area and in turn local character and distinctiveness.”

Ray 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, describing it as “the most complex piece I have worked on in my career so far.”

The sculpture has been created from corten steel, which forms a thin layer of oxide when its surface is exposed to the elements, producing a ‘rust-like’ coating that helps it blend into the environment it is in.

If approved by councillors next week, the piece will stand on the north west corner of Keel Square looking across the road to the former Vaux site, which is now part of the Riverside Sunderland quarter.

Although planning officers have recommended the artwork for approval, the final decision on the sculpture rests with the Planning and Highways (East) Committee.

The committee will meet at Sunderland Civic Centre’s council chamber on Monday, November 1 to discuss the application.

The meeting starts at 5.30pm and is open to the public.


Words: Chris Binding, Local Democracy Reporter

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