The bronze sculpture right outside the front of Manchester Piccadilly station depicting seven life-sized soldier figures wearing blindfolds and guiding one another has been well-received by many for its “moving” subject matter since it was first erected back in October 2018, and has been described as “striking” for its interaction with passers-by at eye level – but what exactly does it mean?
What’s the message behind it? And why is it here in Manchester city centre?
Commissioned by national ex-service person sight loss charity, Blind Veterans UK, to mark the centenary year of the First World War in 2015 and realised by artist and sculptor Johanna Domke-Guyot, ‘Victory Over Blindness’ is a poignant memorial to soldiers who suffered loss of sight whilst fighting overseas.
The industrialised nature of the First World War – which lasted from 1914 to 1918 and saw the deaths of an estimated 886,000 British and Commonwealth military personnel, as well as countless more injured – made for unfathomable human suffering, with around 30,000 of the wounded discharged with damaged or defective eyesight and of these, 3,000 were left permanently blinded.
This came as a result of a number of circumstances, particularly the dreaded Mustard Gas attacks, as well as head injuries, shrapnel from artillery fire, stray bullets and fractures all contributing to the growing number of men returning from the war with sight loss.
And so, to serve as a stark reminder of these tragedies, the statue was commissioned.
Unveiled in October 2018 to “commemorate the amazing achievements” of the blind veterans supported by Blind Veterans UK since the end of WWI, the ‘Victory Over Blindness’ statue depicts seven blinded soldiers leading one another away from the battlefield with their hand on the shoulder of the man in front.
The phrase ‘victory over blindness’ was first used by Blind Veterans UK founder, Sir Arthur Pearson, and is a motto that continues to guide the charity’s principles today.
Inspired by a photograph the sculptor Johanna Domke-Guyot saw of WWI veterans, blinded in combat, leading one another from the front, what makes ‘Victory Over Blindness’ different from other statues or sculptures of lifelike individuals is that it was decided it should be situated on the ground and at eye level to engage passers-by, rather than on a plinth or platform.
This choice was primarily made to highlight the notion that the sacrifices of those on the frontline in WW1 should not be forgotten.
“People will be able to touch them, I want it to become a people’s piece,” Ms Domke-Guyot said.
Although Blind Veterans UK is a charity located in London and Brighton – and now in Llandudno too – Manchester was chosen as the site to host the memorial permanently as it was known as a disembarking point for many soldiers returning from the war with life changing inflictions.
“There is no more appropriate location for this statue.” a statement on the Blind Veterans UK website reads.
“The convalescent camp at Heaton Park in Manchester treated and trained thousands of wounded First World War soldiers and sailors, including many with sight loss [and] we hope that it will continue to inspire the people of Manchester, and beyond, for many years to come”.
The statue is an empowering testament to the ability to overcome physical afflictions and serves as a reminder of the crucial role that charities play in rehabilitating wounded soldiers.
Over two years on, ‘Victory Over Blindness’ continues to strike a chord with Mancunians.
Featured Image – Flickr
Ben Foster reveals he’s being paid ‘literally peanuts’ to play for Wrexham AFC
We refuse to believe any UK football fan didn’t let out a little smile upon hearing the news that Ben Foster came out of retirement to re-sign for Wrexham AFC nearly 20 years on from his first spell.
The 39-year-old goalkeeper called time on his playing days at the end of last season after slowly moving towards becoming a squad player-come-YouTuber over the past few years and having already enjoyed a long and successful career.
However, following a nudge from the coach and celebrity owners Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney, he was convinced to lace up his boots once more and the former United, Stoke, West Brom and Watford man will now be playing between the sticks at the Racecourse Ground until the end of the season.
To make things even more wholesome, the Premier League veteran has confessed that transfer talks didn’t last long, confessing on his YouTube and Spotify show, the Fozcast: “To be honest, the negotiations took about five minutes”, adding that he’s been paid “literally peanuts”.
Nevertheless, Foster admitted that he doesn’t need much money after such a great career up and down the football pyramid and while “things changed a lot since [he] was last here”, he said, “it’s nice to be back” and labelled manager Phil Parkinson “top class”.
Parkinson, an EFL journeyman himself, had similarly complimentary words for the seasoned keeper, stating: “We’re delighted to welcome Ben to the club. With Rob Lainton getting injured at the weekend, it was important we had all bases covered going into the last part of the season, which this signing ensures.”
The ex-England international first played for Wrexham back in 2005 when he was loaned out by Stoke City and went on to win the EFL Trophy — his first-ever piece of silverware. Now he’s back to help them finally get out of the National League (currently three points clear at the top with a game in hand).
As for his expectations for the season, he said the goal is simple: “getting the team over the line and getting them promoted”, adding “I’m a very low-maintenance player. Just wheel me out, I’ll do a job.” Now that’s the kind of attitude we can get behind.
Speaking to talkSPORT after the sudden move, he revealed that the whole deal felt just as out of the blue for him too, detailing how he got a call from the manager after a bike ride one day and, before he knew it, he’d given them the thumbs up.
Shedding some light on his discussions with the Hollywood owners, he said that Reynolds “actually slid into [his] DMs” once the agreement had been confirmed, joking: “I’m buzzing I’ve got Ryan Reynolds in there, I ain’t even replied to him! I’ll leave him hanging for a bit!”
He went on to admit that he actually approached him first, messaging, “I used to play for Wrexham and if you’re ever available for a podcast I’d love you to come.” Thankfully, he finally responded, saying: “Mate, sorry I didn’t reply. I’ll definitely do the podcast with you, thank you for signing.”
That Deadpool episode is going to be a great watch… You can see him talking about the surprise transfer in full on his YouTube channel down below:
The GIANT £375 chocolate Easter egg that’s ‘too beautiful to eat’
One of the north’s most legendary hospitality businesses has created an Imperial Easter Egg, and the effort that goes into crafting it is wild.
Coming in at 10kg, 22 inches tall, and £375, Bettys enormous chocolate treat shows off a whole lot of artistry.
The iconic tearoom, which has sites across Yorkshire, has shared the behind-the-scenes video to its TikTok page, drumming up almost half a million views.
The mouth-watering video shows first milk chocolate being hand-painted onto a chocolate egg-shaped mould to create the Easter egg’s beautiful textured appearance, The Hoot reports.
Then layer after layer of melted chocolate is poured in from a chocolate tap, before being trimmed and tidied.
Bettys, which has tearooms across Harrogate, York, and Leeds, uses the finest Swiss Grand Cru chocolate for its imperial Easter egg, and every bit that’s trimmed away is melted down to reuse elsewhere.
Then a pastry chef at the tearoom will spend up to an hour PER EGG piping on the ornate decorations, carefully piping on coloured white chocolate stems and ferns.
Then colourful royal icing flowers are placed on its surface, each one again hand-piped by their cake decorators.
The end result is a whopping Spring-time masterpiece covered in shades of green, yellow and purple.
Bettys Imperial Easter Egg weighs in at a massive 10kg and stands at 22 inches tall.
Bettys says: “Celebrating the creativity and craft that makes Bettys unique, our handmade Imperial Easter eggs continue a tradition stretching back more than a century, when our founder Frederick Belmont designed eggs which were ornately embellished with hand-piped icing designs.
“Containing over five kilos of Grand Cru Swiss chocolate made from prized Venezuelan criollo cocoa beans, the Imperial Egg is a true work of art, showcasing the highest skills of our chocolatiers and cake decorators.
“Each Imperial Egg carries an array of delicate, individually crafted spring blooms and foliage including primroses, narcissi and pansies, with hand-piped stems as a final perfect touch.
“Our Imperial Easter Egg is made to order and is only available for collection from one of our Yorkshire shops.”