COVID Flag Pole Memorial in Marple Memorial Park
In October 2023 Friends of Marple Memorial Park completed a COVID Commemoration Project with Stockport Council to create a permanent memorial in the park to remember those we have lost and to celebrate the way the Marple Community came together to help one another during the pandemic.
One of the things in the park we associate most with the pandemic is the flag pole where we flew the NHS flags to thank key workers. Our proposal developed from this and the fact that the flag-pole was nearing the end of its life. Our aim was to combine a new flag-pole with the integration of a small monument with commemorative plaque built in front of it.
We shared our plans and sought feedback on the idea from the local community throughout the project's development and were supported by the Marple Mutual Aid Group too.
We kept Marple North Councillors informed at every stage, seeking their feedback and comments on the progress made and the next steps planned.
We'd like to extend our thanks to Council Officer Jon Headlam and former Councillor Malcolm Allan for their help and support getting this done, to Zoë Porter and the Marple Mutual Aid Team for their financial contribution, and Marple North Councillors for allocating the budget that has enabled us to create a new long lasting feature in the park that will no doubt outlast us all.
Background to the COVID Commemoration Project
In the earliest days of the COVID pandemic communities across Stockport and the UK came together to provide support and neighbourliness to each other and this continued throughout the pandemic. In Marple's case, the help and support provided to the community by the Marple Mutual Aid Group was outstanding.
Many residents of Stockport expressed to the council a wish for opportunities to commemorate those we have lost and to celebrate the way communities came together to help one another. With this in mind, the council used a variety of networks to promote the COVID Commemoration Project and provided grants through the Stockport Local Fund.
A sum of £5,000 was allocated to each Ward in the borough, plus service expertise to aid development where there was community commitment to make proposals happen.
How our Flag Pole Memorial Project developed
In the case of Marple North Ward, the most logical place for a memorial is in Marple Memorial Park. The initial suggestion by councillors was that a memorial garden could be created but it was made clear that there would be no funding for ongoing maintenance. We're pleased they decided to seek input from Friends of the Park on what we considered suitable.
We were uncomfortable with the concept of a new garden and concerned that responsibility for long-term maintenance would fall on volunteers. In discussion with councillors we agreed that this kind of memorial must be low maintenance and long lasting, in the way items like Oldknow's Shuttle Stone, the Stocks, the Marple Hall Sundial and the small WWII memorial are.
Mention of the small war memorial began to focus our thoughts, but where should a new memorial similar to that be placed?
It was then that fate took a hand. One of the things in the park we associate most with the pandemic is the flag pole where we flew the NHS flags to thank key workers.
We had noticed that the hinged base plate and anchor bolts on this flag pole were corroding badly. When we raised this with the council they told us that there were no funds to maintain the pole and once it became unsafe it would be removed. We were very unhappy about this but that news became the catalyst for development of our proposal to replace the flag pole with a new one and incorporate a stone monument and plaque inspired by the small war memorial. We think it's a perfect solution to commemorate the COVID pandemic in Marple.
The new flag pole was installed on Wednesday 19 April, see photos below.
Having the new pole installed enabled us to focus fully on the detail of the monument design without any concerns about potential clashes between the two elements.
Monument design and inscription
We began design and development of a stone monument based on the existing small war memorial that may feature a small remembrance flowerbed each side too. We made a full-sized mock-up of the initial monument design (see below) and used this to develop and fine tune our brief for costing and installation. As well as matching the general appearance of the small war memorial, it was proposed to incorporate an area of cobbled surface similar to that in front of Danny Winter's bench. We also asked for a small area of cobbles around the flagpole too.
Meeting with Marple Mutual Aid
We met with Zoë Porter from Marple Mutual Aid and Cllr. Malcolm Allan on Saturday 29 April to brief them on the project's progress and to discuss the proposed inscription. We agreed the text for the inscription and then engaged with the council and the monument designer to make this work.
Meeting with monument designer
On Friday 12 May we met with a Council Officer and a representative of Maysand, who prepared a detail design and costing for the monument element.
We changed our brief slightly with a very minor tweak on the text since we agreed it with Marple Mutual Aid (see below); and we asked for a straight-sided cobbled path up to the monument to prevent wear from foot traffic and slipping on the grass. We also removed the small flowerbed in front of the monument and may now create two small beds either side of the path and the monument after it is built. This means plants will not grow up to obscure the inscription and it also considers long-term maintenance. In the event that Friends of the Park are no longer active in the future, the small beds could even be grassed over if there was nobody to look after them.
Construction of the monument by contractor Maysand began on Thursday 5th October and was completed a week later on Thursday 12 October 2023.
Work in progress on Tuesday 10 October 2023