The metal artwork is one of three in Osler Street Park, Edgbaston, including Walsall’s Paralympic swimming sensation Ellie Simmonds OBE and one of Sutton Coldfield’s champion hockey player, Jane Sixsmith, from Sutton Coldfield. have been immortalised in new steel sculptures
Sir Lenny Henry, from Dudley, Aldridge-born Paralympian swimmer, Ellie Simmonds, and Sutton Coldfield’s own champion hockey player, Jane Sixsmith, have been celebrated with their own Sustrans bench sculptures.
The Portrait Bench Initiative was created by the walking and cycling charity Sustrans as a way to remember the achievements of influential individuals and to promote cycling for everyday travel.
They have been made by Cannock-based artists Katy and Nick Hallett as part of the Portrait Bench Initiative created by the walking and cycling charity Sustrans to remember the achievements of influential individuals and also promote cycling for everyday travel.
The artists have created about 30 metal portraits for the National Cycling Network which spans 12,000 miles across the nation.
The trio were voted for by residents across England for representing the West Midlands. Sir Lenny Henry said: “It really means a lot to be nominated by the people for this. It’s really a cool thing. The statues are absolutely amazing, and it has my cheeks, which is fantastic.
“What they seem to have done is take these little moments and little signifying things to make it look like you. I am very impressed.”
Sir Lenny Henry continued: “Sustrans has done this amazing thing on the national cycling network.
“We need to fight for these places or they will eventually be gone.”
Ms Sixsmith also took the time to talk about being represented in these sculptures, noting how they cover a range of sexes, abilities and races.
Ms Sixsmith said: “I think representation is absolutely crucial. It’s important to show that we’ve got people from all walks of life – male or female, and any disability. I think it’s really important so that people in the community can be inspired to go on and reach their own individual goals no matter what.
“I would never have thought that I would have gone to compete in the Olympic games, I think that there are people here locally who can read about us and see us in person and hopefully that will inspire them to go on to greater things as well.”
Also commemorated in the statues is Ellie Simmonds, who represented England in the 2008 Beijing, 2012 London and 2016 Rio de Janeiro Paralympic Games.
A spokesperson for Sustrans said: “This is all about people enjoying the green spaces that they have, and encouraging them to get out there and get walking and enjoy the outdoors.”
“We have an amazing line-up of local, national heroes here – we have a knight of the realm, a four-times Olympian and one of the most extraordinary Paralympian as well, and that representation is really important.”
More information on the portrait benches, the National Cycling Network and the 250 life-sized statues can be found on the Sustrans website sustrans.org.uk