RNLI memorial to volunteer supporters chosen

"...simple and timeless...possesses an energy..."

The Royal National Lifeboat Institution has selected a design for a sculpture to pay tribute to the hundreds of volunteer crew members who have lost their lives while saving others at sea over the last 184 years, together with the many RNLI lifesavers and fundraisers who have served the charity.

The sculpture, by Sam Holland ARBS, will be located at the charity’s Poole headquarters, opposite The Lifeboat College, home of the RNLI, where future generations of lifesavers and fundraisers will train.

The sculpture was chosen by a team that represented all the people of the RNLI.

They judged over 64 detailed submissions through three judging steps and unanimously agreed on the final design.

It is hoped that the sculpture will be unveiled in the summer of 2009.

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The sculpture, of a person in a boat saving another from the water, is meant to symbolise the history and future of the RNLI.

The charity say: “Radiating from the boat are flat bands of stainless steel, flush with the ground, providing both the effect of waves and a material onto which the names of those who have lost their lives can be engraved.

“Relatives and the general public will be able to walk round the sculpture and look at the names of those remembered.”

Philip Gilbert, RNLI Sculpture Project Chairman, explains: “The selection group has looked at lots of memorial concepts, from traditional to contemporary, and this seems to be a combination of the two.

“This inspirational and striking sculpture encapsulates the very essence of the RNLI – saving lives around our islands.

“It is simple and timeless, is accessible and possesses an energy – the power, strength and commitment of a rescue.

“The names of more than six hundred crew members who have lost their lives will become an integral part of the sculpture – written on the sea – a poignant and direct emotional link for anyone wanting to remember, reflect and be inspired.

“Constructed of stainless steel, a nautical reference, it will fit well in its surroundings, close to the sea.”

The sculpture, that will ultimately sit in a memorial garden, will be open to the public and is intended to be accessible at all times.

RNLI volunteers and staff, plus members of the public will be able to reflect on the extraordinary self-sacrifice of many of the people involved with the charity since its foundation in 1824.

Sam Holland, explains her feelings about becoming the commissioned sculptor: “I am so happy and overwhelmed – to get this job is fantastic.

“The artwork I submitted was intended to be bold and simple, incorporating the elements of courage, loss and remembrance to create a powerful sculpture to commemorate the lost and to celebrate the work of the RNLI.

“Everything I do is with water and the sea, and I’ve had quite a lot to do with the RNLI.

“I spent a lot time with the lifeboat people in Moelfre when I worked on the Coxswain Dic Evans statue, and they were so helpful. I’m really just so excited to be awarded the commission.”

Michael Vlasto, RNLI Operations Director adds: “Response to the project from our lifeboat crews, lifeguards, staff and supporters has been extremely positive and encouraging.

“They recognise while there are many individual memorials to acknowledge the loss of local crew members, and celebrate individuals – such as the Longhope memorial in Scotland, the sculpture of Sir William Hilary, the RNLI’s founder, on the Isle of Man and a memorial site that sits alongside many others at the National Memorial Arboretum inland at Staffordshire – that this is the first RNLI memorial at which they can honour the names of all those brave crew members who have lost their lives while saving others, and celebrate the wider RNLI family including its fundraisers.

“The sculpture obviously represents the work of the RNLI lifesavers, and will fit in well with its surroundings – The Lifeboat College and the Survival Centre.

“Ultimately the memorial will remind the nation that there are still people who volunteer to carry out selfless acts of heroism to help others, and that we need to honour and remember them to inspire future generations.”

The project is being managed and funded through the RNLI Heritage Trust, which was set up to preserve the historic objects and archives of the Institution for future generations.

Philip Gilbert continues: “It is likely that the sculpture and its setting will cost more than £150,000.

“This is clearly a large sum to find, however, the money given so generously to the RNLI for the provision of our lifesaving services cannot be used for directly this memorial.

“Therefore the RNLI Heritage Trust, through crews and staff, has been raising money, nearly £80,000 to date.

“In fact a large proportion of the funds have come from a sponsored cycle ride from Poole to Rome by the RNLI Chief Executive, Andrew Freemantle.

“We hope that RNLI volunteers, staff and supporters continue to raise the money to allow this worthwhile project to go ahead.

“Members of the public can visit www.rnli.org.uk/memorial for more information, and anyone wishing to support the memorial directly can make a donation to the RNLI Poole Headquarters marked Memorial.”


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