The aim was to create a memorial sculpture, inspired by the life of the former slave ship captain and Liverpool Harbour Master - John Newton, for the new Mersey Ferry Terminal building, at Liverpool's Pier Head.
We have created an artwork of etched glass with three steel plates, representing the three continents, Africa, America, and Europe. It celebrates the trans-atlantic connections between the lyrics of ‘Amazing Grace’, written by John Newton, and a melody that emerged from the descendants of the slaves ( - some of whom John Newton had in his early life, transported from Africa to America), coming together and then many years later, returning to England, to become one of our best loved hymns.
John Newton, following a religious conversion in 1748, an event which is believed to have inspired the writing of 'Amazing Grace', renounced his past as a slave trader and became a Tide Surveyor of Liverpool. Newton then went on to become an Anglican priest and joined forces with William Wilberforce to campaign for the abolition of the slave trade, this side of the Atlantic.
Within the artwork, the pierced weathering steel plates are connected by a glazed panel, etched with patterns of the former slave trading routes. The words and the old musical notation of the hymn ‘Amazing Grace’ flow through the artwork.
Installed in the foyer of the new Mersey Ferry Terminal Building at Liverpool’s Pier Head, this memorial sculpture has been designed in consultation with the architects, Hamiltons, Merseytravel representatives and The Right Reverend James Jones, Bishop of Liverpool.
The sculpture was unveiled on 9 July 2009.