Commissioned to commemorate the great and good of Castle Vale, The Last Leaf is a permanent statue being built on the north Birmingham estate.
Organisers are now compiling a shortlist of initial names to honour on ‘the first leaf’ – and seek suggestions from across Birmingham and the wider UK. Castle Vale has been cited as a “success story of community action” since granted Housing Trust status in 1993, but key individuals and groups go often unrecognised. The Last Leaf will be a publicly chosen chance to celebrate the estate’s influential figures.
Standing 40 metres high, with steel silver leaves carrying the names of those recognised by the community, The Last Leaf legacy sculpture will forever recognise individuals who have made a difference to the Castle Vale estate over its 50 year history.
Designed by Erdington based artist & architect Saranjit Birdi, the sculpture is inspired by an old South American custom that a person is not mourned as long as the last person who knew them is alive – that person known as ‘the last leaf’. Birdi wanted to “create a beautiful piece of public art, one that would be a clear and prominent reminder of the community behind it.”
Castle Vale has been celebrating a Year of Celebration since its inaugural Castle Vale Festival in September 2013.The Last Leaf has been organised by Active Arts Castle Vale (AACV) and the Year of Celebration Steering Group as part of the 12 month endeavour to champion the estate’s community action. Claire Marshall from AACV says, “Castle Vale has been cited many times as a benchmark for community achievements, with many national organisations looking to the estate’s achievements for inspiration. The Last Leaf will stand as a permanent and personal tribute to those truly behind the CV success story.”
Organisers are now seeking suggestions for ‘the first leaf’ – the initial name to be engraved on the legacy sculpture. Nominees do not have to have been a resident of the estate but must a have made an impact on the people and place of Castle Vale.
Local residents and businesses are being canvassed for a list of primary candidates, but want to reach out for suggestions from the wider city, looking for names of any individuals or groups who would fit the following criteria:
· Those who have changed things and made a difference to people in Castle Vale
· Those responsible for work that brought distinction to, or enhanced, Castle Vale
Fundraising for The Last Leaf has already begun, with significant donations coming in from individuals, businesses and community action groups. Organisers have currently raised over 63% of their target.
One of the first individual donations to The Last Leaf came from Lord Rooker, who served as MP for the neighbouring Perry Barr constituency from February 1974 to June 2001. On becoming an Official Sponsor of The Last Leaf, he said “One of the things I find missing from people views today is a sense of history. This applies equally well to the so called top politicians I mix with and my own constituents when I represented Perry Barr. It does not mean knowing the history, but being aware there is one to learn from. The Last Leaf is a terrific idea which deserves support from all. It is not just legacy, but it does give that ‘sense of history’. Indeed a spring in the step to a Castle Vale of the future, proud of its past and a message to other areas.”
Significant donations have also come from further community groups, including £3,000 from The 2005 Group – a local resident’s committee set up after the dissolution of the Castle Vale Housing Action Trust (CVHAT).
Wendy Stokes, a member of The 2005 Group, said “The idea of a commemoration of people that had worked so hard to make Castle Vale a better place to live came originally from the group. They wanted this to be a lasting memory for the residents who were no longer with us and something that could recognise other residents who have worked hard for their community in forthcoming years.
The group felt that a donation to help The Last Leaf become a lasting sculpture would be good way to remember residents of Castle Vale, not only now but for many years to come. It would also be a piece of artwork that Castle Vale residents could be very proud of.”
Organisers continue to seek donations both big and small, working under the fundraising mandate that ‘if everyone who lives and works in Castle Vale donates £1 there would be enough to finance The Last Leaf and further community projects such as the return of the Castle Vale Festival, scheduled for September 19th -21st 2014.
Donations for The Last Leaf legacy sculpture can also be taken online, with specific information on how to contribute found at www.celebratingcastlevale.wordpress.com/donations
To learn more about The Last Leaf legacy sculpture, please visit www.celebratingcastlevale.wordpress.com