In October 2012 Winstanley & Nadin won the commission to design and build a commemorative sculpture in the new city centre of Stoke-on-Trent, Hanley. The sculpture was to have two functions; to clad an ugly but necessary electrical substation next to the new bus station development and to commemorate the link between the location and the Czech village of Lidice.
Incredibly, the location of the substation was where the hundreds of the City’s miners gathered in September 1942 to pledge a days pay per week to rebuild the foreign village. Three months earlier the village of Lidice had been demolished by the Nazis as a cruel display of power and retaliation, killing all the men above 16 (mostly farmers and miners) most of the children and sending the women to a concentration camp. It was the outrage of Stoke-on-Trent councillor Barnett Stross and head of the miners association Arthur Baddeley, that brought the miners together to stand in defiance of Hitler almost 2000 miles away. In 1947, thanks to the people of Stoke-on-Trent, Lidice was rebuilt and the survivors repatriated.
Despite this being an incredible story of compassion winning over evil, it was little known in Stoke-on-Trent. Sarah and I decided to make the building of the sculpture a catalyst for spreading the story. The concept of the piece intended to echo the process undertaken by the miners 70 years previously- The miners acted to ensure that Lidice was not forgotten, we wanted to ensure that they and their story was not forgotten either. Through a year of events, interventions and creative projects in the city, we asked the people of Stoke-on-Trent (and across the globe) to make a promise to share the story of Lidice with two people. In return they got their own giant miners tag* on the sculpture. The resulting sculpture, UNEARTHED, is an abstract sculpture, made up of straight and swooping walls of tags that can all be seen from ground level. The sizes and finishes of the tags run in layers, following the upward motion of the piece, as if projecting out of the ground- the sculpture, as well as the story, is being unearthed. The reaction we got from promise makers was inspiring. Thousands of people had connected with the story, with their community and art. People felt proud to have been a part of it and grateful to have been allowed.
The sculpture now stands, with around 3000 symbols of people promising to remember Lidice and the miners of Stoke-on-Trent and as 1 large symbol- that people united to achieve great things, and that remembering the story of Lidice is the most important thing we can do today.
*Miners tags were small, dog-tag like objects that were used in mines to identify who was in the mine at any given time, like a metal clocking in system. Every miner had a personal tag that stayed with them throughout their career. We decided to use this system to identify our promise makers, allowing them to personalise their tags on the sculpture.