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New memorial or ‘gingerbread men’? Opinion split over proposed Heath sculpture

Questions over chosen location for tribute to Humanitarian Aid Workers who died while trying to help others overseas

02 May, 2019 — By Dan Carrier

TO some, it looks like a paper chain of gingerbread men that risks ruining the tranquil, natural landscape on the fringes of Kenwood.

For others, it is a much-needed memorial dedicated to brave humanitarians who have left these shores to save others, but have not returned.

Now Hampstead Heath managers must decide whether to go ahead with a new permanent sculpture of 15 figures holding hands.

The proposed work, designed by Michael Landy for the Humanitarian Aid Workers campaign group and funded by £400,000 of donations, has been lined up for a spot on top of a hill called Stable Field near Kenwood.

It was discussed by the Hampstead Heath Consultative Committee on Monday, with opposition to the location emerging.

Ellen Solomans, who represents the Vale of Health Society on the committee, said she felt the designs “looked like gingerbread men”.

Others warned it would attract vandalism, with one member stating he believed the “instinct would be for someone to reach for a felt-tip pen and draw a face on them, and then lower down to draw something not so respectful”.

South End Green Association representative John Hunt added he felt the project was laudable – but the location was not.

He said: “However good this piece of work may be, it is still a man-made object planted in what is usually seen as a rural space.”

Heath and Hampstead Society’s Thomas Radice said: “We look very critically on any impacts development might have on the Heath and we feel this memorial would set important precedents. We wish to be constructive – nobody questions that this is a worthy cause – but we do suggest they should try and find another site.”

Historic England properties curator Dr Jeremy Ashbee told the meeting they had scouted various locations across the Kenwood estate. He said: “They had a design and then approached us to ask if we had a location that would fit their criteria.”

The group looked at a garden on the South Bank, before approaching Kenwood. Dr Ashbee added: “We wanted to make sure the location that was chosen would limit the impact on things we hold dear – the natural, cultural, aesthetic and historic amenity of Kenwood. We were impressed by the group and its aims, but possibly less impressed with the memorial itself, and we decided it was out of the question that it would be in the Kenwood estate where it could impact on Humphrey Repton’s landscape, the Henry Moore sculpture, or buildings such as the dairy or kitchens.”

Instead, they chose a clearing near Kenwood House’s kitchen garden.

A brochure produced by the Humanitarian Aid Workers committee states: “The search for a suitable site for the memorial has taken some time. The site needs to ensure both the visibility of the memorial and access to it for national and international visitors. It also needs to be able to host an annual commemoration on World Humanitarian Day. The Stable Field offers an ­ideal position for the memorial in terms of atmosphere, history and practicalities.”

A spokesperson for the City of London Corporation said they would take note of the committee’s views, adding: “The proposals will be considered by the Hampstead Heath Management Committee on June 5 and following these discussions, the views of the management committee will be submitted to English Heritage.”

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