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'Unknown Builder' statue comes to Bankside

Southwark councillors last week voted to approve plans for a relandscaping of the Bankside riverside walkway west of Tate Modern, including the installation of two new sculptures.

Alan Wilson's 15ft bronze statue 'The Unknown Builder' was commissioned by the Union of Construction, Allied Trades and Technicians (UCATT) as a national memorial to those who have been killed at work on building sites. On average, one building worker is killed on a site in the south east each month.

"More workers die on construction sites in a year than are killed in train crashes in the UK," said UCATT general secretary George Brumwell. "It is time that some dignity was afforded to those who have lost their lives, and the families they have left behind. UCATT hopes that the memorial, The Unknown Builder, will go some way towards doing that."

The Union spent several months searching for a home for the 100,000 artwork, which is being stored in sculptor Alan Wilson's studio outside Windsor

Union spokesman Jim Kennedy told the Mayor of London's The Londoner newspaper: "Not only will it be a fantastic addition to London's public art but it will be a commemoration and celebration of construction workers' role in the city." The union hopes to have the statue in place by 28 April – Workers' Memorial Day – next year.

The statue is part of a wider re-landscaping of the riverside walkway between Tate Modern and Blackfriars Bridge, which will see some of the greenery removed to create a wider thoroughfare to cope with the increased number of visitors to Bankside. Council officers say that the scheme will also help to tackle illegal trading and rodent infestation.

Residents of Falcon Point say that the wider walkway is more likely to encourage illegal traders and performers than deter them.

It is proposed to install a second sculpture along the walkway which the council says would be commissioned at a later date following discussions with local interest groups including Tate Modern. It is also suggested that the plaque unveiled by Roy Hattersley in 1980 to mark the opening of the original Bankside riverside walk could be reinstated.

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