The creators of a 24ft-high angel statue made of knives collected from police amnesties have said they were overwhelmed by how many weapons they had gathered, but the sculpture has divided opinion among the families of knife crime victims.
The sculpture, the work of artist Alfie Bradley, will be finished next autumn and will tour the country, including standing in Trafalgar Square in London. It will be made of more than 100,000 knives, collected from 43 police forces.
Though some victims’ families have been supportive of the project, carving names of their loved ones on to blades used in the sculpture, others have opposed the monument, with a Facebook group set up called “Say no to the knife angel”.
Writing on the Facebook group, Cheryl Evans, the mother of Warren Graham who died aged 18 after being stabbed in the chest in 2004, said she was shocked at the idea. “An angel is pure, a knife is the devil’s creation to the death of our young people and those who use it to end innocent lives,” she wrote.
“I will not and cannot support this, the fight begins. Maybe you have not lost a child so cannot see the deep-rooted agony this will cause.”
The angel is being made at the British Ironwork Centre in Shropshire, which has helped spearhead the knife amnesty. The knives are sterilised and blunted before being incorporated into the sculpture.
Clive Knowles, the chair of the centre, said the project had been inspired by a television documentary on knife crime and the desire to educate the public about the number of weapons on the street. But it had spiralled beyond anything the organisation had intended, he said.
“It’s an enormous task,” he told the Guardian. “We are liaising with 43 police forces. Most people will only see the finished project but they won’t see the enormous work that goes in to take these thousands of weapons off the streets. We see huge theatrical weapons, like machetes and samurai swords, which come over for the gift market but end up on our streets.”
The ironwork centre has become a place of pilgrimage for many families, Knowles said, with up to 100 victims’ relatives expected to have visited by January. Many decided to carve names into the blades they donated, something Knowles acknowledged other families may find distasteful, but said he could not refuse when relatives had asked if they could do it.
Marie Rose, 30, of Barkingside, east London, who launched the campaign against the statue, wrote: “We don’t need even more awareness about knife crime in London – we experience it every day.”
But another parent, Caroline Shearer, whose 17-year-old son Jay Whiston was stabbed to death at a house party in 2012, disagreed. “This is a sculpture of hope. I feel privileged to have my son’s name on it, as I do not want anyone else living our nightmare,” she wrote.
Knowles said the artwork was intended to provoke a strong reaction. “When there is an art project like this, it is supposed to shock,” he said. “The angel’s face will be one of dismay, with its arms open as if to say: ‘Why?’ We want to spur the country to action.
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2 Knife Angel is a 27-foot-tall sculpture made of over 100,000 knives.
7 43 police precincts across the UK collected weapons that were confiscated or turned over in amnesty.
8 The confiscated knives were often sent to sculptor Alfie Bradley in evidence tubes, and he had the arduous task of cleaning and sorting each knife by hand.
10 The carefully sculpted hands and face were the only areas, along with the feet, not covered in knives.
13 The Surrender a Knife, Save a Life program continues today in an effort to bring down the number of stabbings across the UK.