Birmingham, England
United Kingdom
Hippodrome Square Birmingham AIDS & HIV Memorial since 1 December 2022
without names
UK's largest memorial for AIDS and HIV now unveiled
A memorial to honour those lost to HIV/AIDS and those living with the virus today and in the future has been unveiled in Birmingham’s Hippodrome Square, during an emotional celebration.

The Birmingham AIDS and HIV Memorial (BAHM) was revealed on Thursday 1 December in a special service to coincide with World AIDS Day. The event in the new Hippodrome Square saw hundreds attend to mark the occasion, coming together for a night of rememberance, celebration, and education.

Having campaigned for almost two years to have the UK’s largest permanent memorial for AIDS and HIV erected, the BAHM founders – Garry Jones, Phil Oldershaw, and Andrew Bentley-King – were joined by the likes of Dr. Steve Taylor, Consultant HIV Specialist at Birmingham Heartlands Hospital and Medical Director of the Saving Lives charity, and Rachel Greaves, founder of HIV-support group, Positive Peers.

BAHM Founder and Designer of the ‘Red Ribbons’, Garry Jones, commented: “To say I’m emotional would be an understatement: the compassion, care, and love that the crowd brought to the ‘Red Ribbons’ reveal was truly overwhelming, and is a memory I will cherish forever. The Birmingham AIDS and HIV Memorial has been a labour of love for myself and the BAHM team since the start, but it has been something we have all been so passionate about. “Bringing this to fruition has always been about three things: remembering those we’ve lost over the past 40 years; celebrating those – like myself – who can now live long, healthy, happy lives thanks to testing and medical advancements; and educating the wider public about HIV and AIDS to eradicate the stigma that still exists. To know we now have a permanent memorial to help us do this is nothing short of sensational.” Garry came up with the concept of the Birmingham AIDS and HIV Memorial, having his own experience of the epidemic and living with the virus today. Garry and his co-founders were inspired into action after watching the Channel 4 period drama ‘It’s a Sin’, setting out to establish a dedicatory space in Birmingham to remember those lost to HIV.

The six-metre-high sculpture – brought to life by Black Country fabricator, Luke Perry – depicts two entwined red-ribbon hearts, positioned to represent an ‘embrace’. As the piece weathers, one of the heart ribbons will begin to corrode and rust, representing the millions lost to HIV; meanwhile, the other is painted red to symbolise those individuals currently living longer and healthier lives with the virus.

Speaking on the importance of educating people about the virus and the need for testing, Dr. Steve Taylor commented: “We are still seeing far too many people being diagnosed with HIV late, particularly heterosexuals. This tells us there are a lot of people in Birmingham and the West Midlands that are carrying HIV and have no idea. We have got to get over this HIV exceptionalism – it’s a viral infection, and just like Hepatitis B and C we should be testing for these viruses much more often and more routinely than we are. Everything starts with testing.”

Prior to the unveiling, a candle-lit remembrance procession, featuring costumes made by Birmingham City University School of Fashion and Textiles students, was led into the square by a samba band, with a selection of BAHM quilts from the Cover-Up Project displayed. The crowd was also treated to an hour of entertainment, including performances by Chinatown Lions, SOTE School of Theatre Excellence, Rainbow Voices and Hawthorn Primary School Choir.

The Red Ribbons were unveiled to the crowd at 6.45pm, followed by the laying of a wreath by the Right Worshipful Lord Mayor, a minute’s silence and collective song led by the choirs. BAHM Co-founder, Phil Oldershaw, concluded: “On behalf of all of us at BAHM, I want to express a heartfelt ‘thank you’ to absolutely everybody who has played a part in making this happen. The ‘Red Ribbons’ reveal was a monumental moment in history, and I am immensely privileged to have been able to play my part in that. The entire team has worked so hard and we appreciate every penny and ounce of energy received by the array of supporters in making this happen here in Birmingham. The Birmingham AIDS and HIV Memorial now stands proud and tall, representing so many people in different ways.”

BAHM’s successful fundraising campaign raised £210,000, thanks to a host of businesses, charities and organisations from across the West Midlands region and beyond; including the likes of Birmingham City Council, Saving Lives, AirBnb, Galliard Apsley, McCourt Collaboration and Birmingham Pride. You can see the Birmingham AIDS and HIV Memorial for yourself in Hippodrome Square today.

Photo © What's On

7 December 2022
What's On, Birmingham