The Countess of Wessex unveiled a statue on Tuesday, entitled Victory over Blindness, outside the Manchester Piccadilly Station, to mark the centenary of the end of the First World War.
The statue features seven blind soldiers leading each other with their hands on each other’s shoulders, and “is a testament to the thousands of blind veterans we have supported in rebuilding their lives after sight loss,” says Blind Veterans UK on their website.
Blind Veterans UK posted on their website that the statue’s name comes from a phrase that was used by the charity’s founder, Sir Arthur Pearson, and guides its principles.
Sophie gave a speech during the unveiling, saying that, “This statue commemorates not only the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War, but also the life-changing support Blind Veterans UK offers to vision-impaired ex-Service men and women since that conflict through to the present day.”
Sophie took over the patronage of Blind Veterans UK from The Queen in 2016.
Blind Veterans UK was initially founded to support 3,000 veterans who were blinded by the First World War, but today supports 4,700 veterans. Their aim is to help a further 50,000 veterans who are eligible for support.
According to Blind Veterans UK, there are 77,000 war memorials in the UK, the Channel Islands, and the Isle of Man and none depict a disabled service person. Victory over Blindness is the first and was sculpted by artist Johanna Domke-Guyot.
The location was strategically determined for the Manchester Piccadilly Station as there was a convalescent camp located there, at Heaton Park, where many soldiers suffering from loss of vision were treated, in addition to the thousands else who were treated and trained at the location.
Johanna Domke-Guyot suffers from MS, and said that “it’s rare to see disabled people depicted in artworks, let alone in permanent public artworks such as this one.”
She noted that the statue is at ground level, which was “very important to me because it means that a disabled or blind person can access it. I want people to touch it; I want it to be a people’s artwork.”