A new thought-provoking piece of public art has been revealed in Reading, created by the efforts of young people who have been involved in a project focusing on tackling knife crime and violence in the town.
The Armoured Heart sculpture is now installed outside the east entrance of The Oracle shopping centre, standing as a physical symbol for peace and hope as it is in part created from blades handed in to knife amnesty bins across Reading and the rest of the Thames Valley.
It was created by local artist Stuart Melrose, who has worked on the Amnesty Art project alongside members of the Young Voices project run by Reading’s Starting Point mentoring service. This has involved young people shaping the design of the sculpture and learning through developing a new programme to educate on the risks and consequences of violence and knives.
Representing the strength of Reading’s communities and the potential of young people growing up in the town, the 2m tall structure is in the shape of heart, made up of multiple precision-cut stainless steel diamonds to depict armour plating. At the top a swirling steel finial shape has been made from weapons recovered by Thames Valley Police and then melted down and repurposed into an inspirational art form.
With the artwork created to inspire young people to make positive choices around knives, there is also an interactive digital layer that can be viewed through a mobile phone using augmented reality technology.
Members of the public are invited to visit the sculpture and learn more from its adjacent information board where it can be viewed for free on the riverside outside the Oracle, opposite the cinema. This will be followed by a month of action in July where the installation will be the catalyst for an educational outreach programme aiming to help young people reach their potential and challenge any culture that knives or violence are acceptable as a form of protection or as a solution to any situation.
The sculpture has been funded through grants received from GWR’s Community Fund, the British Airways community fund, the Thames Valley Violence Reduction Unit and community donations. It was commissioned through a partnership project including Reading Borough Council, Thames Valley Police, The Oracle shopping centre, the University of Reading, Berkshire Community Foundation, the Hampshire Community Rail Partnership and Reading & Basingstoke Community Rail Partnership, amongst others.
“The unveiling of this incredible, evocative sculpture has created a physical symbol of peace and hope that everyone can take inspiration from.Councillor Karen Rowland, Lead Member for Environmental Services & Community Safety at Reading Borough Council
“The sculpture celebrates the opportunity of the positive choices that our young people can make to grow up safe in Reading’s communities.
“The production of this sculpture is proudly “Made in Reading”, the culmination of our local young people alongside Reading’s own Stuart Melrose, to create a thought-provoking manifestation of our message. The upcoming educational programme to follow will remind us all that within Reading we have the power to work together to move away from knife crime and violence.
“My thanks go to The Oracle shopping centre for the prime location and to GWR and British Airways, the Thames Valley Violence Reduction Unit and other community organisations for the funding and volunteering efforts that have made this possible.”
“It has been a fascinating project to work on, drawing upon what the partners felt represented their hopes for Reading and those growing up here, but also as a symbol of the resilience in the community and its strength.Artist Stuart Melrose
“The young people I worked with are overcoming all the challenges they face growing up today, but their enthusiasm and vision has shaped both the sculpture but also a wider brand which will help the education project have a lasting impact.”
“The Community Fund is a great opportunity for us to invest in projects that really make a difference to our customers and communities at a local level.GWR Business Assurance Director Joe Graham
“We were delighted to support this initiative with a grant for £44,000. The sculpture itself is fantastic as a permanent installation, but it is the opportunity to inspire further positive change that we are particularly pleased to be able to support for the long term.”