Guns are not common in the UK, but knife crimes are becoming quite frequent and to raise awareness about the growing issue, artist Alfie Bradley has spent years, building a 24-foot sculpture of an angel out of 100,000 knives.
Looking at the angel might remind you of the iron throne from the famous TV show Game of Thrones that was made with a thousand swords surrendered by a king’s enemies. The throne, however, has no comparison to Bradley’s Knife Angel, that used knives confiscated by 41 police stations. The artist spent two years collecting knives and putting the Knife Angel together piece by piece. The sculpture now stands in the British Ironworks Centre in Shropshire, England.
The inspiration for the Knife Angel came from a television documentary on knife crime in the UK. Alfie took upon himself to raise awareness about the increasing rate of street crime involving weapons. They began the project two years ago from 43 police forces across England and Wales who confiscated over 100,000 knives off the streets during this time. The head of British Ironworks Centre, Clive Knowles talked about the challenges saying, “It’s an enormous task. We are liaising with 43 police forces. Most people will only see the finished project, but they won’t see the enormous work that goes in to take these thousands of weapons off the streets. We see huge theatrical weapons, like machetes and samurai swords, which come over for the gift market but end up on our streets.”
Great things come with great effort, and so did this sculpture. Even though it is prepared for a UK tour soon, just a year ago it was not even clear if it will ever be unveiled. Six of the 43 police stations were not contributing any knives which resulted in a protest from British Ironwork Centre who refused to complete the project.
“How can police forces not support this at a time when the crime is on the up, especially when a company is willing to support and fund the bins and banks? If a fatal stabbing happens in one of these forces areas, how will a chief constable explain to families that they failed to hold an amnesty that was being funded already? That will be a very difficult conversation,” said Clive Knowles.
When 41 of the total 43 police stations finally got on boards, the Knife Angel was completed and revealed to the public just a few days ago. Like many other things, the project has sparked controversy since the beginning. Some families who have been a victim of knife crimes have been very positive about the project, visiting and engraving messages on the wings of the angel to show support. Many others strongly opposed it and made a Facebook community by the name “Say no to the knife angel.” While some believe it will have a positive impact, others think it will only stir feelings of the victims. Cheryl Evans, whose 18-year old son had died in such an incident said, “An angel is pure, a knife is the devil’s creation to the death of our young people and those who use it to end innocent lives. I will not and cannot support this, the fight begins. Maybe you have not lost a child so cannot see the deep-rooted agony this will cause.”
Clive Knowles commented that the criticism was not only expected but also intended, “When there is an art project like this, it is supposed to shock. The angel’s face will be one of dismay, with its arms open as if to say: ‘Why?’ We want to spur the country to action.”
The 24-foot tall sculpture is prepared to tour the UK soon, after which the Knife Angel will finally be put on display on the fourth plinth in London’s Trafalgar Square, as a tribute to the victims of knife crimes.