Pansies project memorial to gay murder

Amy Bourke March 28, 2007
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On London’s South Bank under the shadow of Waterloo Bridge and the Royal Festival Hall, a determined man repeatedly plants beds of pansies.

A thoughtful touch, you might think. It is one made even more poignant by the fact that the man is artist Paul Harfleet, and the pansies he plants commemorate the murder of David Morley.

Harfleet said: “Many people stop and ask me what I’m up to. It’s always slightly sad as I can see the realisation cross the face of the public when I reveal that I am memorialising homophobia.

“The reaction has so far been very favourable to the project. Frequently people pass and simply thank me for my efforts, possibly not aware of The Pansy Project and what it symbolises.”

David Morley, nicknamed Sinders, was a 44-year old barman who survived the 1999 nail bombing on the Admiral Duncan pub in Soho.

He was killed in October 2004 by four people, one of them a teenage girl.

The gang who killed him filmed his ordeal on their mobile phones, and committed a series of assaults and robberies on eight random people around Waterloo on the same night.

They were sentenced to a total of 44 years imprisonment, but for manslaughter rather than murder.

The crime is widely believed to have been motivated by homophobia, although that is not mentioned as a reason in the police report.

Harfleet said that he planted a single pansy at the precise location of Morley’s death because of the “profound effect his death had on the gay community.”

The Pansy Project coincides with the London Lesbian and Gay Film Festival at BFI Southbank, and will end at the same time, on April 4th.

Until then Harfleet will be maintaining the installation and handing out pansies to interested passers-by in order to involve them in the exhibition.

The Pansy Project originally started as a small autobiographical project.

Harfleet would visit places where he himself had experienced homophobia, and would plant pansies there.

It was originally commissioned by and featured in queerupnorth International festival in early 2005, but the project has grown substantially since then.

On Sunday April 1st Mr Harfleet will be manning a stall of pansies placed alongside the book stalls near to BFI Southbank.

From 12-4pm he will be on hand to distribute the flowers and chat about The Pansy Project to interested passers by.

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