The Knife Angel – A Sculpture Made of 100,000 Knives Confiscated by the Police

In an effort to raise awareness of the growing rate of knife crime throughout the UK, artist Alfie Bradley has spent the last couple of years creating the Knife Angel, a 24-foot-tall sculpture made out of 100,000 knives confiscated by, or surrendered to police stations.

The Iron Throne imagined by George R.R. Martin and showcased on the HBO hit TV show Game of Thrones is supposed to be made out of 1,000 swords surrendered by a king’s enemies. It’s an impressive sight, but it doesn’t even come close to the Knife Angel created at the British Ironworks Centre, in Shropshire, England. For the past two years, artist Alfie Bradley has been literally piecing together the awe-inspiring sculpture out of 100,000 knives confiscated by 41 police stations across the United Kingdom.

Photo: The Knife Angel/Facebook

Clive Knowles, head of the British Ironworks Centre, told The Guardian that the idea for the Knife Angel was inspired by a television documentary on knife crime in the UK and the desire to raise awareness about the large number of weapons on the streets. They started supplying knife banks to 43 police forces across England and Wales two years ago, and since then, more than 100,000 weapons have been taken off the streets and delivered to the center to be used for the massive artwork.

“It’s an enormous task,” Knowles said last year. “We are liaising with 43 police forces. Most people will only see the finished project but they won’t see the enormous work that goes in to take these thousands of weapons off the streets. We see huge theatrical weapons, like machetes and samurai swords, which come over for the gift market but end up on our streets.”

Photo: British Ironworks Centre/Facebook

The Knife Angel was completed recently and is set to tour the UK, but at one point last year it was unclear if would ever be unveiled. The problem was that six out of the 43 police stations involved in the project were not contributing any knives, so the British Ironworks Centre refused to complete the artwork in protest.

“How can police forces not support this at a time when the crime is on the up, especially when a company is willing to support and fund the bins and banks? If a fatal stabbing happens in one of these forces areas, how will a chief constable explain to families that they failed to hold an amnesty that was being funded already? That will be a very difficult conversation,” Clive Knowles told the Shropshire Star.

Photo: The Knife Angel/Facebook

“We can’t even try and take the sculpture out of the studio until we get the remaining forces to action their surrender amnesty. Originally we pledged to get 100,000 knives off the streets with the backing of all 43 forces. It’s been created against and to raise awareness of Britain’s issues with violent knife crime, so we’re not able to unveil it until all constabularies are on board with it,” Knowles added.

In the end, 41 of the 43 police stations got on board, and the finished Knife Angel was finally unveiled, a few days ago.

Photo: British Ironworks Centre/Facebook

The Knife Angel has sparked controversy ever since it was announced, over two years ago. While some knife crime victims’ families have been supportive of the project, even visiting the workshop and engraving messages on the wings of the sculpture, others strongly opposed it. Members of a Facebook group called “Say no to the knife angel” voiced their opinions online.

Cheryl Evans, the mother of an 18-year-old who died as a result of a knife wound to the chest, in 2004, declared herself shocked by the idea of the British Ironworks Centre. “An angel is pure, a knife is the devil’s creation to the death of our young people and those who use it to end innocent lives,” she wrote. “I will not and cannot support this, the fight begins. Maybe you have not lost a child so cannot see the deep-rooted agony this will cause.”

Clive Knowles said that they were expecting some criticism, adding that the Knife Angel was intended to provoke strong reactions. “When there is an art project like this, it is supposed to shock,” he said. “The angel’s face will be one of dismay, with its arms open as if to say: ‘Why?’ We want to spur the country to action,” he told The Guardian.

After touring the UK, the 24-foot-tall Knife Angel could be placed on display on the fourth plinth in London’s Trafalgar Square, as a tribute to knife crime victims.


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