Seven-year-old Annie takes pride of place in Ray Lonsdale’s new Launch Day sculpture

A seven-year-old girl from Peterlee has been selected by North East sculptor Ray Lonsdale to be the focal point of his next exciting creation.

Annie Sawicki has spent recent weeks at Ray’s workshop being measured and photographed for the soon to be unveiled sculpture. Named “Launch Day”, the sculpture will feature a little girl sat with her grandfather overlooking the River Wear.

Ray, 56, said: “The idea is the grandfather is a former shipyard worker, explaining to his granddaughter what the shipyards used to be like and what it was like on launch day when one of the boats was finished.

"Having created the grandfather I needed a girl who was around six or seven years old and so I asked her dad, who owns the car garage near my workshop, and he said his daughter Annie was really keen to do it.

"She did a really good job and would sit there nice and still while I took measurements and photographs on which I could base my design.”

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The final piece is two months away from completion but, as yet, no formal location has been announced as to where it will be positioned on the banks of the Wear.

Annie added: “I was really excited to take part. It was lots of fun to go to the workshop and get my picture taken. I’m looking forward to seeing it when it’s finished."

Annie Sawicki posing alongside the already created sculpture of the grandfather.

Mum Louise Sawicki, 39, hopes the new sculpture will one day be somewhere Annie can take her own family.

She said: “We are over the moon and so proud that Annie is going to be part of this sculpture. When Ray asked if we would like Annie to do it, we bit his hand off.

"Hopefully as Annie grows up she will be able to take her own children and grandchildren to see the sculpture and it will be a nice piece of local history.”

The sculpture is the second stage in a two piece creation which will be unveiled alongside a a separate sculpture named “Dead and Gone”.

Annie being measured by Ray to ensure all parts of her sculpture are in proportion.

Ray said: “The first piece shows two men who are shipyard workers having their packed lunch right at the end of the shipyard period here in Sunderland. One of them is reading a newspaper about the shipyards being closed.

"It captures the point which brought an end to 500 years of shipbuilding on the Wear. The grandfather in the second piece is one of these men 30 years on reminiscing with his granddaughter about what it was like.

"Both sculptures are set to be unveiled at the same time.”

Sculptor Ray Lonsdale hopes creations such as "Launch Day" will help preserve Sunderland's shipbuilding heritage for children like Annie.

With his dad having been a shipyard worker in the 1950s and 60s, Ray feels it’s important the city’s heritage is not lost on children such as Annie.

He added: “It was nice to be asked to do this and important that young children like Annie don’t forget the traditions and heritage of Sunderland.”

In keeping with the city’s traditions, Ray recently unveiled his ‘Gan Canny’ sculpture which captures two men riding dray horses, with a cart full of Vaux beer on the back which is set to be installed on the corner of Keel Square to commemorate the history of the Vaux site.

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