‘Historic’ National Trans Monument in Manchester to celebrate ‘resilience’ of trans people

this is an artist's render

A planning application has been submitted for a National Trans Monument in the heart of Manchester’s gay village.

The application for a new monument to replace the National Trans Memorial sculpture in Sackville Gardens, which was “irreparably damaged” by a fire in 2022, has been submitted by Sparkle, a national transgender charity, in partnership with New Practice, an LGBTQ+ and women-led architectural practice, and the global professional services firm Arup.

The plans were submitted to Manchester City Council on Tuesday (9 April).

The two-year design and consultation process saw Arup collaborate with diverse, trans and gender-non-conforming communities in Greater Manchester and throughout the UK. They also invited architects, designers and artists from these communities, and their supporters, to contribute.

Jay Crawford, the chairperson of Sparkle’s board of trustees, said: “It was important to the charity that the views and lived experience of the communities we serve helped shape the project. It’s fantastic that a trans person and their allies submitted a visionary design which fulfilled the original brief in such a captivating and uplifting way.”

Sparkle are looking for public donations to fund the monument.

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“We’re also talking to private-sector benefactors to ensure that we’re able to deliver the new monument within an ambitious time frame,” Crawford said.

Manchester's Canal Street
The monument would be built in Manchester’s gay village. (NurPhoto/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Tony Lovell, Arup’s chief operating officer for the UK, India, the Middle East and Africa, added: “[We are] proud to be part of this historic project that celebrates the diversity and resilience of the transgender community. As a firm that values inclusion and social impact, we are committed to creating spaces that reflect the needs and aspirations of all people.

“This monument is not only a tribute to the past, but also a vision for an inclusive and accepting future, where everyone can live with dignity and respect.”

A ‘monument’ rather than a ‘memorial’

Conceived by Bek Ziola, a senior designer and architect at New Practice, the design for the National Trans Monument, titled “Passing on Light”, will provide a space for contemplation and reflection while representing the resilience and vitality of trans and gender-diverse individuals.

Ziola noted the importance of the project “especially against the backdrop of the prevailing political climate in the UK,” and told PinkNews that reflecting on their own journey of being trans and living authentically inspired the design.

“We’ve observed a troubling surge in anti-trans rhetoric, with media coverage often sensationalised for ‘click-bait’ or as a political scapegoat, leading to consequences for the trans community. I’ve personally witnessed and experienced the impact of this,” Ziola added.

This is an artist's rendering of the upcoming National Trans Monument in Manchester.
“Passing on Light” aims provide a space to reflect, and represent the resilience of all gender-diverse people. (New Practice)

The architect wants the monument’s design to help shift this negative narrative. “For a start, redefining the transgender ‘memorial’ to ‘monument’ is more than a language change. It’s a seismic shift in perception.

“No longer relegated to the shadows of suffering, transgender individuals are now celebrated for their beauty and strength.”

Designed to age well and represent resilience

The National Trans Monument aims to provide an atmosphere which invites reflection, both on trans lives and on the potential metaphors of the creation itself.

The idea is for this to come within the reflecting light from elements of polished metal, which mirror the person looking at it, the gardens, the city and the sky.

Each figure in the 12ft-high monument is grounded with a stone base, with steel posts rising from it. Both materials are designed to age well, representing resilience.

Creating social value

Marc Cairns, the managing director at New Practice, tells PinkNews: “This is how you create real social value. Through your work, not just talk[ing] about it. As a team we’re doing the work, and we’re working directly with underrepresented and targeted communities.”

Ziola agrees and hopes his design will affirm the beauty within trans and non-binary identities.

“Encouraging the freedom to express and celebrate our identities not only strengthens our communities but also ripples positive effects throughout society,” he said.

“The strength and resilience of the trans community is something that inspires me every day and I am committed to supporting this sentiment through my work.”