A striking new sculpture dominating the South Lanarkshire skyline aims to reflect the scale of the climate emergency and serve as a poignant, permanent reminder of the need to care about each other and our planet.
Unveiled during the COP26 summit, the 23m high Sculpture of Hope now commands the woodland park of Cuningar Loop, part of Clyde Gateway – Scotland’s biggest and most ambitious regeneration programme.
The striking sculpture features an age, gender and race-neutral child, embracing the surrounding nature and reaching out to a greener, hopeful future.
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The child’s figure towers above on 20m high elegant columns that take their form from the brick chimney stalks that once littered the East End of Glasgow.
Unlike its predecessors, this deconstructed chimney stalk is made from an innovative low carbon 100 per cent cement-free concrete, incorporating locally-sourced aggregates and recycled, crushed glass within the child structure.
Achieving a 75 per cent lower carbon build, the Sculpture of Hope in the Rutherglen green space joins two other new public art installations by artist and designer Steuart Padwick, located in and around the COP26 host city.
The 4.5m high Beacon of Hope , made from contoured layers of Scottish-grown Sitka Spruce, celebrates Scotland’s expanding timber construction industry and reaches out to all those passing through the architecturally significant Glasgow Central Station.
Padwick’s third sculpture, the Hope Triptych , is a playful 3.5m high adaptation of the Child of Hope, and is composed of three colourful figures, symbolising the power of coming together.
Located at the University of Strathclyde’s Rottenrow Gardens, the triptych is made from reclaimed sheet steel with a low carbon cement-free concrete foundation.
“The Hope Sculpture started as a conversation with Ramboll [lead consultant] and became a gift from 50 companies to Glasgow,” Steuart told Lanarkshire Live.
“It is a testament to the power of collaboration and dedication to deliver a better future. We all need to address this new global agenda so our young people can embrace a future of hope.
“It is very simple: why would anyone want to poison their future?”
Linking the built environment with improved mental wellbeing, Steuart has worked with the Mental Health Foundation on all messaging conveyed by the sculptures.
Words of hope have been written by some of Scotland’s favourite voices, writers and poets, including Jackie Kay, Andrew O’Hagan, Ali Smith, and 2020 Booker Prize winner Douglas Stuart, as well as local school children, including St Columbkille’s Primary pupils Fraser Kirkwood, nine, and 11-year-old Luca Miller.
These messages have been inscribed directly on to all of the sculptures, including the Caithness stones at Cuningar Loop.
Close to each artwork is mental health signposting, highlighting a range of vital support services.
During the Sculpture of Hope planning process, Steuart and project director Natalie Alexopoulos reached out to Rutherglen resident Geraldine Baird MBE to appeal for community input.
Geraldine brought in community members Liz Bell and Christine McPhail to form a support group. She also set up introductions with Rutherglen Library, councillors, head teachers, the local heritage society, historians and St Columbkille’s Church’s new Deacon.
Geraldine told us : “We feel privileged to have in our area this meaningful artwork, from which the people of Rutherglen and beyond will benefit enormously.
“The Hope Sculpture will not only be a place for reflection, but will become a meeting point and, who knows, maybe a place where we can hold music and literary events.
“It was a wonderful experience working with Steuart and Natalie – two creative and caring people, who are so inclusive and so inspirational. We forged a friendship which I hope will endure.”
Director Natalie paid tribute to the companies and individuals with whom she has collaborated during the project.
She added: “Their integrity, drive and commitment to make a difference has been inspiring.”
Councillor John Ross, leader of South Lanarkshire Council, said: “The Hope Sculpture is a magnificent addition to the landscape of South Lanarkshire.
“It will serve as a very visible reminder of the care we all need to take to protect both our environment and our own mental health, and as such I truly believe it will indeed inspire hope in people in South Lanarkshire and beyond for generations to come.”
Cuningar Park was once a major contributor to the industrial revolution. It was the location of Farme Colliery from 1805 to 1931 – the last colliery to be worked within the Glasgow city boundary.
From 1810 until 1897, the area to the north of the Hope Sculpture was a reservoir supplying Glasgow with water – possibly the earliest large-scale pumped municipal water supply in the world.
Following years of decline and neglect, in 2014 Cuningar’s fortune changed when it was chosen to become a woodland park as a legacy of the Commonwealth Games.
Today, the UK Geoenergy Observatory at Cuningar Loop – an open research facility operated by the British Geological Survey – is helping scientists, industry and policy makers to understand how warm water from these abandoned mines could be used as a renewable heat energy source and contribute to the UK’s ambition to decarbonise its energy supply and achieve net zero by 2050.
Martin McKay, executive director of regeneration at Clyde Gateway, said: “With Glasgow hosting COP26, the UN’s major climate change conference, I can think of nowhere better for the Hope Sculpture, which symbolises the hope of building a greener, healthier future, to call home than the East End of the city – an area that demonstrates that rapid transformations are possible.
“Communities in Clyde Gateway are used to welcoming global visitors and I am confident they will be just as proud of this legacy of COP26, as they were of the Commonwealth Games in 2014.”
Other project supporters in South Lanarkshire include Bike Town, Camglen Radio and Healthy n happy Community Trust.
Steuart and Natalie said they feel very lucky to have had such a warm welcome and support from so many in the community, including Healthy n Happy.
“They introduced us to the fabulous Geraldine Baird very early on. Her friendship, enthusiasm and support has really touched us and the Hope project,” said Natalie.
“She in turn has introduced us to so many wonderful people who have helped us along our way.”
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