Commemorative plaques

Unveiling a plaque to commemorative a former member of a local community is a tremendous way of bringing a community together.  

In the above photograph (© Andrew Carpenter), parish, district and county councillors, primary school children and staff, members of the local community library trust and a former Lord Leiutenant joined the family and former friends of artist John Theodore Kenney, to celebrate his work.

John Kenney illustrated six books in the Rev W Awdry's Railway Series - better known as the Thomas the Tank Engine books.  The former Leicester College student illustrated a total of 31 Ladybird books between 1954 and 1972, most focusing on historical figures of importance.

The event was arranged in association with Karen Wilde, Heritage Development Officer at Leicestershire County Council.  The planning involved working with members of the Kenney family, arranging a reception and interpretative exhibition at a nearby venue, seeking permission to attach the plaque to the wall of a local nursery (built on the site of the artist's former home), and agreeing the text displayed on the plaque.

In 2004,  I was commissioned by the American-based W.T.Stead Society to organise the unveiling of a commemorative plaque to the famous journalist and socal campaigner, William Thomas Stead.

The event was to mark the centenary of Stead's move to Smith Square in Westminster where he lived until his untimely death in 1912.

There were several logistical challenges, not the least being the distances involved.  Those who had funded the project lived mainly in the USA.  Stead was from the north-east of England, so both his influence and his descendants were spread widely;  many guests would have long journeys including those from his alma mater, Silcoates School near Wakefield.   I was based in Leicestershire, but the plaque was unveiled in London.

I booked the Footstool Restaurant in the crypt of the Church of St John Smith Square as a venue for guests to meet and where refreshments and washroom facilities were available.  From there it was only a two minute walk to where the ceremony would take place.

We then arranged to walk to Parliament, following in Stead's footsteps, where the late David Taylor MP would welcome us and provide a venue for a reception.

On the day, I brought the catering supplies for the reception and delivered them to David Taylor's office in Millbank (from where David and I took a short cut to Smith Square by walking under Westminster!)

In 2011, I was approached by a resident to ask for my help in commemorating the work of Sir Harold Ridley, a pioneering eye and cataract surgeon. 

The resident had recently had his sight restored thanks to the procedure that Harold Ridley invented, using intraocular lenses), and had been surprised and pleased to discover that he had been born less than five minutes' walk away.

We worked with the Kibworth Improvement Team and the Ridley Foundation who provided much background information.  We engaged with the owners of the house who were happy to allow their home to be used for the ceremony and a reception.