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Gan Canny

A sculpture honouring the history of Vaux Brewery has been permanently installed in Keel Square, overlooking the regenerating Riverside Sunderland.


Vaux Brewery 'Gan Canny' sculpture installed in Keel Square

A sculpture honouring the history of Vaux Brewery has been permanently installed in Keel Square, overlooking the regenerating Riverside Sunderland.

Gan Canny, a life-sized sculpture of a fully-loaded dray hauled by two horses, has been on view for several weeks while the site and design was finalised. It has now been laid in the ground and its surrounding fencing removed, ready for the public to appreciate the striking steel artwork in all its glory.

Created by renowned local artist Ray Lonsdale, the sculpture took 14 months to craft and features two men riding the dray horses, which once carted Vaux beer across the city throughout the 1900s. From the spokes of the wheels to the crates filled with sculpted bottles, Ray has perfected every last detail of this iconic artwork that will leave a lasting legacy of the city's industrial past.

Commissioned by Sunderland City Council, Gan Canny is one of three sculptures designed by Ray - who created Seaham's famous Tommy.

Ray said: "I'm absolutely delighted with how it looks now it has been installed and have been overwhelmed with the feedback from the public so far. 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 so flattered 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 transforming Vaux site, which is rapidly evolving into an impressive new part of the city, means it really is about giving a nod to the past without dwelling on it."

To mark the sculpture reaching its final destination, Sunderland City Council has released a series of videos created by Lonely Tower Film & Media to celebrate the history of Vaux, reflect on fond memories and educate the younger generation about an important part of the city's history.

The videos feature sculptor Ray Lonsdale, Frank Nicholson, the Vaux Breweries managing director and great-great-grandson of founder Cuthbert Vaux, as well as workers from Vaux, including Barry Nelson, who was the 'boy' assistant to one of the horse draymen.

Marie Gardiner, from Lonely Tower Film & Media, said: 'Sunderland is rightly proud of Vaux Brewery, it was such an important part of the town's history and identity. To be able to help tell that story, work alongside Ray Lonsdale and interview so many lovely people who made Vaux what it was, has been a delight. With the evolution that Sunderland is going through it is only right that the history of the site is marked, and Ray's work is the perfect addition to the cityscape'

Councillor Graeme Miller, leader of Sunderland City Council, said: "As the transformation of Riverside Sunderland takes place, we wanted to have a reminder of the site's iconic history. The Gan Canny sculpture is powerful in the way that it has already sparked conversations and prompted people to reflect on their happy memories, while also educating young people about Sunderland's past.

"What better place for this incredible piece of artwork to stand than proudly overlooking the former site of the brewery, which is now an exciting place of regeneration that will reinvigorate our city centre." 

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