Phoenix Tree sculpture designed by Blitz survivor unveiled in Coventry University’s new peace garden

The Phoenix Tree sculpture in Coventry University's new peace garden with TheHub in the background

The Phoenix Tree sculpture in Coventry University's new peace garden

University news

Wednesday 17 January 2024

Press contact

Press Team

A Phoenix Tree sculpture paying tribute to Coventry’s history and future has been unveiled in Coventry University’s new peace garden.

Blitz survivor George Wagstaffe was commissioned by Coventry University to create the bronze sculpture, which symbolises the evolution of Coventry and is modelled on new trees George saw growing on the site of a fallen tree and draws on his experiences of the Blitz, which left much of Coventry as rubble. To him, the sculpture is about rebirth, demonstrating how the city built itself up from ruins and became the City of Peace and Reconciliation.

The sculpture, which stands at around four metres tall, takes pride of place in the new garden that stretches from Coventry Cathedral to Cox Street and sits where the Alan Berry Building once was. It forms part of the university opening up its city centre campus to the public and is intended to be a place where students, and the wider community, can gather to socialise and relax.

Although I didn’t think so at the time, I think the Blitz has had a massive effect on my work, the idea that things do crumble, do fall away, do break up and out of that can come something greater, something good.

This sculpture was conceived 15 years ago when I was drawing and painting in Wales. I was drawing a series of trees that were very strange and I found out that a tree some years before had fallen down and instead of being cut up it was covered with earth and out of it had come these new trees.

How wonderful to have a university city growing up and growing something new, something vital for Coventry. The city has been through this constantly, it has had the car industry, it’s had the ribbon industry and it’s collapsed and it has come back again, and now coming back in the form of a university.

George Wagstaffe

George is an example of the rich artistic heritage of Coventry University, as a former lecturer when it was known as Lanchester Polytechnic, and his work will complement the new Delia Derbyshire building for art and design students.

A poem that is etched on to the plinth of the sculpture was created by Coventry University graduate Michaela Gyetvai, who also attended the unveiling.

George has many pieces of work associated with the city, I think it is fair to say he is the sculptor in residence of the city of Coventry and we’re enormously proud of this.

This is an opportunity for the university to open up a space that gives a proper and full view of the glorious Coventry Cathedral.

It is a space we hope is part of the university but also a space for the city and we are incredibly proud of our role in the city of Coventry.

Ian Dunn, Coventry University Provost