Why a Nelson Mandela Memorial at Princes Park?
The vision brought together by Mandela8 following the death of Nelson Mandela in December 2013 was to see a permanent artwork established in the Liverpool 8 area to celebrate and commemorate Nelson Mandela’s outstanding achievement for humanity and the strong links between Liverpool and South Africa. The decision to locate the memorial in the Joseph Paxton designed Grade II listed Prince’s Park followed local consultation and engagement processes and an open design tender. The memorial reflects not only the meaningful legacy of Nelson Mandela but the significant history of anti-apartheid activism in Liverpool, further detail of which can be found at Mandela8. This was reflected in the establishment of the Sunburst Gates, a key listed feature in Princes Park, as the location for a temporary memorial to his legacy following his death.
It is an exciting opportunity to showcase a significant artwork and memorial that will be integral to the process of change and promotion of diversity, humanity and equality: key principles that Nelson Mandela campaigned for all his life. The memorial design reflects an outdoor classroom to educate people of all ages about humanity, social justice and how to celebrate each other for our differences. A fundamental element of this education will also be environmental education, including the work done by ourselves, Liverpool City Council, Friends of Princes Park and others to improve the park, protect the wildlife, increase the wildlife, and continuing to value and protect wildlife in a cohabited space. Working with a range of people and organisations we want the space to be a place of cohesion and education.
Nelson Mandela cultivated a garden from 16 oil barrels when he was in Pollsmoor prison.
“A garden was one of the few things in prison that one could control. To plant a seed, watch it grow, to tend it and then harvest it, offered a simple but enduring satisfaction. The sense of being the custodian of this small patch of earth offered a small taste of freedom. In some ways, I saw the garden as a metaphor for certain aspects of my life. A leader must also tend his garden; he, too, plants seeds, and then watches, cultivates, and harvests the result. Like the gardener, a leader must take responsibility for what he cultivates; he must mind his work, try to repel enemies, preserve what can be preserved, and eliminate what cannot succeed.”
— Nelson Mandela, Long Walk to Freedom
Who are Mandela8?
Mandela8 started as a campaign in the Liverpool 8 community after Nelson Mandela’s passing. This campaign grew and Mandela8 was formally established as a charity in 2017. Mandela8’s initial vision was to see an internationally recognised permanent artwork that functioned as a unique space for education, performance, conversation and contemplation established within a Toxteth Liverpool 8 heritage site, to celebrate, commemorate and pursue the legacy of Nelson Mandela’s outstanding achievement for humanity. Since its establishment Mandela8 have delivered and supported a number of initiatives in L8 and beyond including the annual My 67 Minutes programme (where people give 67 minutes of their time to do acts of kindness for others representing the 67 years Nelson Mandela fought for social justice and human rights); the Roots & Wings programme for young people at risk of criminal exploitation; the introduction of the Mandela Field of Hope (a wildflower meadow established in the park during Covid 19 (securing all funding) to enhance biodiversity and provide both habitat and sources of food for wildlife and a colourful visual display for park visitors); The Angela Holligan Book Collection and the development of the Princes Avenue Steps Scheme.
More details about Mandela8, their work in the community and their patrons can be found at mandela8.org.uk
What is Nelson Mandela’s connection to Liverpool?
Liverpool was an active city in anti-apartheid, boycotting South African goods and campaigning to free Nelson Mandela from prison, with local activists in Liverpool 8, union representatives and others being involved. Liverpool held the first Freedom Festival for Nelson Mandela in Liverpool 8. Liverpool City Council gave Nelson Mandela the Freedom of the City in 1994.
Nelson Mandela’s importance to Liverpool is huge. In Toxteth, Liverpool 8, Mandela remains a highly significant role model to the community. In the 1980s Liverpool 8 was tireless in its support of the anti-apartheid struggle through demos, product boycotts, park runs and the Free Nelson Mandela Campaign.
Apartheid (apartness) was a brutal system of racial segregation and white supremacy in South Africa. The world-wide anti-apartheid movement grew throughout the ’60s ’70s and ’80s in its support for Black South Africans and other minority groups living under this oppressive system. This support was inspired by figures like Nelson Mandela, whose eventual rise from political prisoner to the first Black President of South Africa, turned him into a global icon for freedom and equality.
To find out more about some of the strong connections between the city’s Black community, Nelson Mandela and the anti-apartheid movement please visit the display at the Museum of Liverpool’s Our City, Our Stories programme, a partnership programme which enables local people to represent their own interpretation of the museum’s themes and objects. This display was created in partnership with the Mandela8 group. Liverpool 8 Against Apartheid | National Museums Liverpool (liverpoolmuseums.org.uk)
What will the memorial look like?
The designs for the memorial – as depicted on the project signage displayed in the park since July 2020 – are inspired by Mandela’s gardens at Robben Island and Pollsmoor Prison. His gardens were symbols of resistance, tools for resilience, spaces for reflection and platforms for community. The food grown in Mandela’s gardens provided a resource to counter the food inequality linked to racial discrimination in the prison system, which provided less nutritious rations to non-white prisoners, and offered Mandela an opportunity to gain trust with prison guards and wardens. He resourcefully bartered the food he grew for study materials, including the language studies which gave him a voice in the room when it came to prisoner rights, and later, key diplomatic negotiations.
The therapeutic and purposeful act of gardening helped Mandela keep focus, resilience and resolve through nearly three decades of prison. And not only did Mandela’s Garden at Robben Island provide a space for dialogue, political discussion and debates, but it gave cover to hide Mandela’s
original manuscripts while the copies were smuggled off Robben Island. These texts, written collectively by Mandela and his comrades in prison, formed the basis of Long Walk to Freedom, as well as his public speeches and words which have moved the world.
The Princes Park scheme includes a new ‘Freedom Bridge’, pavilion and 32 cylindrical stonework pedestals inscribed with inspirational Mandela quotes, chosen through consultation:
- The bridge, reinstated from the original Paxton design where a pedestrian bridge connected the island for many years. The bridge will reconnect the island back to the mainland and represents key messages of connectivity, cohesion, building bridges, and represents no one ever being incarcerated on an island again as people will be able to come and go freely from the space.
- The pedestals represent the oil drums Mandela used to grow an allotment on the rooftop of Pollsmoor Prison and have a dual purpose as a space for outdoor education with 32 being the average size of a UK classroom.
- The pavilion that will be built later represents the person who used to educate Mandela and his friends in prison, so represents the tutor or educator in the classroom on the island.The project reflects upon Mandela’s love of gardens and horticulture along with his struggle for freedom, equality and humanity, and the spaces will be used for future activity in the park, acting as a focal point and an area to visit, reflect and educate.Mandela8 was the catalyst for Liverpool City Council’s major improvement works in Princes Park to restore the surrounding lake including reinstating the water channel surrounding the island, fixing edging stones, putting in fishing platforms; installing a new borehole and new pathway connections such as the figure of 8 pathway on the island, as well as ecological improvements such as translocating reed beds to provide better nesting area for birds. The new reed bed areas have now been used for nesting by the waterfowl for the last two years. This work was principally undertaken to support the establishment of the permanent memorial in Princes Park and to reinstate the former Paxton island features. This work improved the aquatic environment for wildlife, anglers, the Friends of Princes Park Group and all who visit this beautiful park.
Who designed the Mandela Memorial?
Wayward were commissioned by Mandela8 following an open design commission exercise to develop the Memorial, in consultation with local communities and stakeholders. The commission sought to marry the legacy of Mandela with the heritage of L8 and the grade 2* listed Princes Park designed by Joseph Paxton. The final design has many synergies with Nelson Mandela’s journey:The Memorial will be installed on the island in Princes Park Lake and Nelson Mandela was incarcerated on Robben island for 18 years;The Island was previously connected to the mainland in the Park by a bridge and before the lake improvement in 2020 was often accessible due to low water levels. Nelson Mandela’s life works and struggles were all about building bridges, connecting people and breaking down barriers;The Memorial will be installed in a garden setting and Nelson Mandela established gardens in Pollsmoor prison as it was one of the few things he could control;
The Memorial will be made of limestone and limestone was the stone Nelson Mandela quarried in prison;
How have the community been engaged in its development?
- As part of the design process, prior to the planning application being submitted, Wayward held a series of community engagement events with Mandela8 that acted as a testbed for future engagement activities:
- The Conversation Dinner – Inviting stakeholders and representatives of various community interest groups, including Friends of Princes Park in Liverpool 8 – utilising a meal of recipes from the history of Nelson Mandela (as taken from the Hunger for Freedom book), to facilitate dialogue about the legacy of Mandela and the potential for the memorial.
- The Reader Workshop July 2017 – a Liverpool based community reading organisation, to hold a reading aloud workshop analysing Invictus, a poem that inspired Mandela. This was the first step in creating a “Collective Editorial Board” to engage the wider public in Mandela’s words and select texts for the memorial.
- Meeting Groups July – August 2017 – We also met with various local groups who have a keen interest in gardening to explore what the memorial could look like.
- Information and Design Stalls – June – July 2019 – We hosted a stall for design conversations at Africa Oye attracting 50k visitors, a significant number of them local, and a stall at a community event (attracting approx 200 visitors) held in the Park by Friends of Princes Park.
- My67 Minutes Programme – Annually 2017 to date – to promote the memorial and the 67 Minutes Programme in schools across Liverpool and the wider Merseyside Area
- School workshops – June 2022 – these events all informed and shaped the final design prior to our planning application being made.
- Other engagement – We have also continued to engage with residents via other activities we have done to agree quotes for the memorial stones, including a stall at Granby Market as part of wider regeneration in the area including the Princes Avenue STEPS Scheme.
- Planning Application and approval – Planning was initially applied for in 2018 and approved in 2022. All statutory notices were put up and statutory consultation was completed as was required as part of this process, with the final design reflecting the comments and feedback received through that process including influencing the types of materials used and how accessibility was addressed. As part of the planning process several documents were produced to satisfy the regulatory requirements, these included providing topographical surveys and updated plans; a tree constraint plan; location plans; design and impact statement plus the planning application.
What measures will be put in place to ensure wildlife are protected on the island once the memorial is installed?
Mandela8 have always been open to discussion about the memorial. The memorial will be a place where we expect users to be respectful of the space as a place for cohabitation by wildlife and people. The memorial will be a wonderful space for us to education people about humanity and social justice and peace. It is an outdoor classroom, designed to be used by schoolchildren, so offers significant opportunity to educate young people about the environment and how to protect it and all living things on it.
- As referenced earlier, work was undertaken prior to the installation of the memorial to improve the habitat areas around the lake including the relocating of reed beds to provide safe nesting areas for wildfowl
- The areas around the perimeter of the island will remain dense vegetation, with only minor works undertaken within the island to ensure the internal pathway is accessible. The memorial will be installed within a natural clearing on the island.
- CCTV is being investigated with the intention to link the park directly to the citywide monitoring system. This will help to prevent any misuse of the space and discourage antisocial behaviour throughout the park.
- The park already receives four visits per week to empty litter bins including the weekends and regular ground maintenance visits. The parks ground contractor includes dedicated officers who look at lake areas citywide and are trained in the use of boats and working in aquatic environment to help manage these habitats. Furthermore, arrangements are being made with the Friends of Princes Park to ensure the memorial becomes part of the regular volunteer litter picking programme.
- Signage will be installed in and around the island reminding people to be aware they are in a cohabited space with wildlife. This will include asking the public to put litter in the designated bins available within the park.
- Educational programmes are being developed (influenced by the programmes already undertaken by Mandela8) with Environmental Groups and Schools to ensure users are protective and respectful of the environment and wildlife. This will be supported by the 2 Ranger & Interpretation Officers now employed by Liverpool City Council.
How has the project been funded?
The memorial has primarily been funded using allocations from planning contributions made by developers (known as section 106 agreements). These contributions are made to improve Liverpool open spaces and allocated by Liverpool City Council to open spaces in the vicinity of contributing developments. In addition Mandela8 have been actively fundraising and have been successful in receiving a Heritage Lottery Grant for their engagement and education programmes and sponsorship and donations from a range of Mandela8 supporters.
What works are being undertaken?
In order to create the final memorial there are a number of activities being undertaken off and on site by specialist contractors. Offsite we have the fabrication of the bridge; the creation of the 32 cylindrical stoneworks; bespoke engraving and the production of the limestone cladding. On site there will be the installation of the foundations; installation of temporary platforms; the siting of the 32 cylinders on the island; installation of the final bridge; stone cladding and paving plus the pathway connections. The entire programme of works is currently estimated at 12 to 14 weeks and takes into account the Mandela week visit to see progress on site and celebrate the commencement of the memorial.
How are you managing construction work in a parks environment?
Throughout the construction the park will be open to the public however there will be a controlled area for the contractors to operate within. This will include the closure of one pedestrian pathway immediately adjacent to the island. There however will remain access for the public through other routes to still complete a full circuit around the lake. The public will not be permitted within the construction area. A similar process was followed for the major improvement works that happened previously, but on a much larger scale.
What about wildlife during the construction?
When working in a park environments contractors have the same controls around creating safe working places and managing impact including waste as they do in any other development. Whilst the installation of the memorial involves several specialist contractors, the construction area will be led by one lead contractor Horticon who will have the overall responsibility for these controls. There are also additional considerations when working in greenspaces. For the installation of the memorial at Princes Park this includes managing works within a heritage park and impact of wildlife. As part of this immediately prior to commencement on site there will be a final full assessment of bird nesting in and around the island given the legal obligation to not disturb nesting birds. This includes establishing a buffer zone around the construction areas and actively monitoring these throughout the works.
What happens when the memorial is complete?
Once construction is complete the memorial becomes park of the public features of the park and is accessible to the public to view and enjoy. Given the aspiration and design of the memorial the intention is that local schools and groups will utilise the space as an outdoor education space. To book this space in the future please search park events at www.liverpool.gov.uk and contact us directly.