Historic England has launched an ideas contest to rethink the future of memorials across the country
The open competition seeks proposals for 10 speculative monuments commemorating either stories, people or groups who deserve recognition, with one for each English region and one national structure.
The call for ideas is part of the built heritage body’s Immortalised season, which will explore the variety of ways people and events have been commemorated around the world. Ten successful applications will each receive a small grant to further develop their proposals. These will then feature in a public exhibition in London, opening on 3 September.
Historic England chief executive Duncan Wilson said: ‘Recent years have witnessed a profound shift in the way we think about monuments. New statues have been created to honour previously overlooked historic figures, while campaigns to remove others have made headlines around the world.
‘In the UK, who and how we remember is being debated with increasing vigour – a reflection of our changing political and social landscape and national identity. Now is a good moment to consider which events or individuals deserve greater recognition. The competition is not just about revisiting difficult and contested histories; the desire to commemorate is also about public demonstrations of love and admiration.’
The competition follows a surge in heated debates over the creation and removal of statues and monuments around the world, including whether London should erect a new statue to the late prime minister Margaret Thatcher. Last May, a campaign to remove a statue of Robert E Lee from Emancipation Park in Charlottesville, Virginia, resulted in violent clashes which saw one person killed and many injured.
Meanwhile in Germany, an innovative new ‘counter-monuments’ movement has responded to the challenges of memorialising the Holocaust by preserving objects, buildings and sites that directly confront the meaning and power of memorials in the public realm.
Historic England’s contest aims to enhance the debate on who should be immortalised and how we can respond to contested statues.
The winning designs will feature in the Immortalised exhibition at The Workshop, Lambeth High Street. This will explore contemporary approaches to public memory in England and respond to the well-documented lack of representations of minorities, including women and people of colour, in England’s memorial landscape.
The deadline for applications is 5pm on 30 April.