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"Living statue" takes over Manchester Piccadilly

Published on 19 Oct 2023

Yesterday we held a special event to mark the fifth anniversary of our 'Victory over Blindness' statue by taking over Manchester Piccadilly Station with a living version of the statue.

We held a ceremony, including a wreath laying and piper playing, outside the station to mark the anniversary. The seven living figures mirroring the sculpture then marched through the station and city throughout the day.

Our now iconic statue was unveiled five years ago by our patron HRH The Duchess of Edinburgh to commemorate 100 years since the end of the First World War.

More than 3,000 veterans lost their sight in that conflict. In 1915, our charity was founded to support them and we continue this important work today.

Standing at the entrance to Manchester Piccadilly the statue not only acts as a way to mark the anniversary of the end of WWI but also stands as a monument to all the veterans we have supported since then.

Watch highlights from the day
The men line up behind each other with their hands on each other's shoulders, train schedule screens are in the background
The living Victory over Blindess statue lines up inside Manchester Piccadilly Station

Our Chief Executive, Adrian Bell, said: “The statue’s name, Victory Over Blindness, was a phrase used by our founder, Sir Arthur Pearson, and it continues to guide our principles today.

“Over the last five years, our Victory Over Blindness statue has become a fixture here in Manchester. It serves as a meeting place and a selfie opportunity. But it also serves as a permanent reminder of why our charity was founded and why we’re still here today.

I would like to thank Manchester for taking the statue into their hearts. I particularly want to thank all the team at Network Rail for all they have done over the last five years and continue to do to support us.”

Our charity was initially founded to support those who had lost their sight in the First World War. While we continue to support service men and women who lose their sight as a result of their service, we now also support veterans who have lost their sight later in life due to age or illness.

Seven men dressed in First World War army uniforms stand next to the statue of the same style
The living statue lines up alongside our Victory over Blindness statue

The statue, conceived and designed by artist and sculptor Johanna Domke-Guyot, shows seven blinded soldiers leading one another with their hands on their comrades’ shoulders and this is exactly how the “living statue” dressed in WWI uniforms made their way through the station and city.

One of the living statue figures taking part was blind veteran Billy. Billy completely lost his sight while serving in Bosnia in 1997. He said: “The statue is based on a sculpture made for the charity’s centenary in 2015. That now stands at the entrance to our Centre of Wellbeing in Llandudno.

“It was great for us to come to Manchester and bring the statue to life around the station today. Loads of people were stopping to take photos of us and chat to our team and hopefully they’ve gone away knowing that there’s a life changing charity out there called Blind Veterans UK."

Highlights from the day

This video shows a compilation of footage from our Victory Over Blindness fifth-anniversary event. It begins, with our Chief Executive, Adrian Bell, talking about the history and origins of our Victory Over Blindness statue, as he stands next to the statue in front of a crowd outside Manchester Piccadilly station. 

As Adrian speaks, the video shows a compilation of footage of both the statue and the "living statue"  lined up and marching outside of Manchester Piccadilly station.

Later on in the video, our Member Engagement Officer and blind veteran, Billy, is heard speaking about what the statue represents to blind veterans. 

As Billy speaks, the video shows footage of volunteers, staff, blind veterans engaging with the public inside Manchester Piccadilly Station.

“The symbolism of the statue is very important, and it gets across the crucial role our fellow blind veterans play in supporting each other when we lose our sight. I was lost when I was told I would never see again but Blind Veterans UK, and particularly those other blind veterans, showed me that I could achieve my own victory over blindness.”
Blind veteran Billy smiling, wearing a red Blind Veterans UK polo shirt, with a British flag design covering the wall behind him.
Blind veteran

Are you a veteran struggling with sight loss?

We support veterans of all generations, regardless of how or when they lost their sight. If you or someone you know is struggling with sight loss and served in the Armed Forces at any time, including National Service, then please get in touch.

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