First look at Ray Lonsdale's stunning new 'Gan Canny' Vaux statue planned for Sunderland

Plans for an iconic dray horses statue to be placed at Keel Square have been submitted as the piece of art celebrates the history of the Vaux brewery.

Monday, 6th September 2021, 10:55 am
Updated Monday, 6th September 2021, 12:05 pm

Sunderland City Council has submitted an application to erect a stunning piece of public art on the corner of Keel Square to commemorate the history of the Vaux site.

A life sized statue of the iconic dray horses, that once walked the streets of the city centre until the closure of the Vaux site, has been created by Ray Lonsdale – who also produced Seaham’s famous Tommy.

The piece, entitled ‘Gan Canny’ is one of three designed by Ray who spent 14 months creating the stunning Vaux piece.

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Artist Ray Lonsdale with his metal sculpture 'Gan Canny'.

‘Gan Canny’ which captures two men riding the dray horses, with a cart full of Vaux beer on the back – includes details like the spokes of the wheels, to a realistic recreation of a bucket carrying sculpted horse mess that hangs on the side of the cart.

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The piece will stand on the North West corner of Keel Square, looking across the road to the Vaux site, which is now part of the Riverside Sunderland quarter.

Ray, whose family are from Sunderland said: “My grandad used to take me down to Sunderland on a Saturday morning and I can recall the atmosphere in the city centre when Vaux was open. The dray horses – which, by then should really have been a thing of the past - were part of what made Vaux what it was. I can still picture them in my mind.

If approved, the statue will be installed at Keel Square by the end of this year.

“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.”

The artist, who has a studio in South Hetton, used corten steel to create the sculpture, which forms a thin layer of oxide when its surface is exposed to the elements, producing a ‘rust-like’ coating that helps it blend into the environment it is in.

Sunderland's iconic dray horses, that walked the streets of the city centre until the closure of the Vaux site, will be remembered at Keel Square with a planning application for a life-sized statue submitted to the council.

Councillor Graeme Miller, leader of Sunderland City Council, said: “This is a stunning piece of art and we are so proud to have engaged a local artist of the calibre of Ray, to help celebrate the past on a site that is very much focused on its future.

“Riverside Sunderland is transforming, and it will be a real focal point of our city centre and a place where new communities will form – to live, work and play.

"Public art plays an important role in engaging people when they visit and telling them the stories of the city we’d like them to know. We’re proud of our past, and all three of Ray’s pieces celebrate it. This, the first one, is stunning and I hope to see it installed soon.”

The planning application is likely to be reviewed in November, and it is thought – if approved – the piece will be installed at Keel Square by the end of this year.

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