On a lovely summer day in June 2020 the welcome lull between the Covid lockdowns was shattered by a tragic terror attack on people relaxing in Forbury Gardens in Reading. Three men were killed and three more injured in the deadly knife attack. One of those killed was secondary school History and Politics teacher James Furlong. I have been working with some of his pupils to create a lasting memorial to him and his inspirational legacy.
Right from my first contact with staff and pupils at The Holt School in Berkshire it was clear that James Furlong was a very special. This page will be updated as the project develops and we work towards a memorial that embodies the spirit of this much loved teacher.
We began with a consultation and design ideas session with a small group of staff and pupils at The Holt School. A few elements came through as having particular significance to Mr Furlong and his students. His collection of gargoyles. His active support for LGTB+ rights. The enormous outpouring of love evident by the flower tribute at the school. His inclusive and empowering teaching philosophy epitomised by six inspirational words chosen by the pupils: Passion; Courage; Humour; Kindness; Dedication; Integrity.
From these I have begun the design process by producing a set of sketch ideas. The design ideas focused around the site lending itself to a circular mosaic and the initial division of that circle into six parts for the six words.
Following the initial sketch designs a set of larger scale designs were presented to the staff and students, here is the final design they chose.
The design was created to focus on the positive and inspirational influence James Furlong had on his students including six key words that the students chose to represent the core values he inspired, these were:–
Passion; Humour; Courage; Integrity; Kindness; Dedication
The symbolism of the design begins in the centre with a golden heart that represents James Furlongs spirit, this is surrounded by mirror mosaic symbolising the projection of that spirit into the outside world and in particular his students. This is set in the centre of a Tudor Rose, the Tudors were a particular passion of this history teacher. Surrounding this is a ring of hearts made by the pupils themselves and beyond this is the Rainbow representing his inclusiveness and LGTB+ rights awareness. Projecting out from the main circle are six separate circles, one for each of the values chosen. To me these also represent those values in the students themselves and how they will transmit those same values on to the people they meet through their lives – the core of each circle a heart in a field of mirror, symbolising that love being transmitted out. Between the circles can be seen Mr Furlongs collection of gargoyles, both guardians looking down and a reminder of the importance of humour.
Making the mosaic begins in the workshop
Now the mosaic is being made in the studio…
Pupils and staff from the school made these beautiful glass hearts in our school workshop. The hearts will form a ring around the central golden heart that represents Mr Furlong.
The mosaic underway in the studio.
The mosaic is being constructed in glass using the traditional paper-faced reverse technique. This means you are seeing the back of the mosaic, hence the reversed lettering.
This is one of the six Hunky Punks which watch over the mosaic between each of the outer circles. The images are based on ones were collected by Mr Furlong.
What is a hunky Punk?
Often mistaken for Gargoyles these sculpted beasts were a common decorative feature of medieval churches. The difference between these and their gargoyle brothers and sisters is that the gargoyles acted as water vents, the water being ejected through their mouths from the rain run offs.