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Stunning Vaux statue to take pride of place on Keel Square

November 2, 2021


Stunning Vaux statue to take pride of place on Keel Square

SUNDERLAND'S iconic new dray horses statue will stand on Keel Square, after a planning application was approved for the site of the life-sized piece. 

Created by Ray Lonsdale to honour the former Vaux Brewery, the statue, made from corten steel, has secured its place on the corner of Keel Square, looking over the road to the transforming riverside.

Commissioned by Sunderland City Council, the public art, entitled 'Gan Canny', is one of three designed by Ray - who created Seaham's famous Tommy.  The artist spent 14 months creating the stunning piece, and a further 19 months for the other two sculptures. 

Gan Canny is expected to be in position by early December, with the two further pieces yet to be revealed but expected to be installed separately at different sites across the Riverside Sunderland development.

Ray, whose family are from Sunderland, still has a strong connection to the city and said it has been a privilege and challenge to create the artwork of an iconic city sight that he still remembers himself. 

Ray said: "When I was first approached by the council to work on this piece, I just felt that it was too good an opportunity to pass up.  I know how much the dray horses meant to people and it is really nice to be able to create something that so many people have a positive sentiment about."

"I am just so flattered though, to have been given the chance to create something that celebrates the past in a city that is focused now on the future.  It's easy to look back at what we had, but the fact that this piece will stand in a part of the city that is literally looking over at the Vaux site, which is quickly transforming into an impressive new place, means it really is about giving a nod to the past without dwelling on it."

A layer of oxide will form over the piece when its surface is exposed to the elements, producing a 'rust-like' coating that helps it blend into the environment it is in.  It captures two men riding the dray horses, with a cart full of Vaux beer on the back and includes details like the spokes of the wheels, as well as a realistic recreation of a bucket carrying sculpted horse mess that hangs on the side of the cart.  Crates of Vaux even contain sculpted bottles.

The piece will stand on the North West corner of Keel Square, looking across the road to the Vaux site, which is now part of the Riverside Sunderland quarter, an area undergoing rapid change with £350m worth of development projects underway on the site right now. 

Councillor Graeme Miller, leader of Sunderland City Council, said: "The response to this piece has been absolutely incredible, and so many people share my excitement to see this in place - a fantastic reminder of the past, but looking across to our regenerating city. 

"I'm thrilled the location of the piece has been confirmed and we can look forward to seeing it proudly standing on the edge of a site that holds such fond memories for so many people in Sunderland."


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