James Furlong Memorial

The Holt School – 2021 – James Furlong Memorial

 

JAMES FURLONG MEMORIAL 2021

On a summer day in June 2020 the welcome lull between the Covid lockdowns was shattered by a tragic terror attack on people relaxing in Forbury Gardens in Reading. Three men were killed and three more injured in the deadly knife attack. One of those killed was James Furlong, Head of History and Politics at the Holt School. I wanted to create something that represents that even when someone is gone – they have never truly left us. As a history teacher, one of the key points Mr Furlong emphasised was, that while you cannot change the past, and it is fixed, you are able to learn from it, and make better choices in order to shape the future. It wasn’t just learning about something; it was the lesson you took from it.  Alongside the memorial team, I felt that the best way to honour his life, is to learn from the lessons and values Mr Furlong taught us. The memorial is permanent reminder of who Mr Furlong was, and who we can be, to enable his legacy to live on.

 

The memorial team did an incredible job of raising awareness via social media for our cause. After smashing our £3000 target in 3 hours, we raised in total over £12,300 through the Go – Fund Me Page. This demonstrated the scale of Mr Furlong’s impact and the reaction of the local community to the attack. Through a variety of Teams calls, meetings and workshops, the Holt Community was involved into the creation of the memorial, alongside the brilliant Gary Drostle, our exceptionally talented mosaic artist, who we are eternally grateful to for making this happen.  As a community, we believe the mosaic is not only a thing of great beauty to admire, but a reminder that Mr Furlong’s legacy is immortalised: something that lives on, in each and every one of us. While he may be gone, Mr Furlong is woven into the lives of the entire Holt School Community, and his love, thoughtfulness and kindness will live forever.

Explanation of Memorial Mosaic:

The design process involved numerous members of the Holt Community both staff and students, who worked together to decide upon symbols that they felt best represented Mr Furlong’s characteristics, values and legacy. The Mandala represents the cyclical nature of life and the spiritual journey of each individual viewer. The design contains symbols of Mr Furlong’s inner self, his guiding principles, and ideas about the world.

  • The golden heart at the centre of the Mandala, is beautiful and perfectly captures Mr Furlong’s warm-hearted nature.
  • The Tudor rose is an important motif that is symbolic of Mr Furlong’s passion and love for the Tudor period of History.
  • The sun rays are symbolic of the brightness and positivity he brought to every situation.
  • An important aspect is the rainbow. Not only does a rainbow represent Mr Furlong’s advocacy for Pride and his inspiring assemblies, but I also think the rainbow motif is a beautiful natural phenomenon that appears after a storm. It was also used as a symbol through challenging times regarding the COVID 19 pandemic, symbolising community spirit and contribution of the NHS. It suggests hope, renewal, and positivity in the face of adversity,
  • The inclusion of hearts in the design, represents all the lives he has touched. These were made by the year 12 art class, as well as other students and teachers. These heart shaped tiles are genuine, individual tokens of love made by the staff and students of the Holt School. 
  • The inclusion of gargoyles was an idea put forward by many of the younger years. These creatures sat in Mr Furlong’s classroom, representing his eccentric character. Throughout history, gargoyles have adorned churches to scare away evil spirits and facilitate the conversion to good.
  • The flowers in the design to represent the wonderful array of tributes left outside the school gates. It helps to convey the immense impact Mr Furlong had on others’ lives and acknowledges the community’s response to his death.
  • The inclusion of tiny fragments of mirror, encourage his characteristics and qualities to be reflected in the viewers of the mosaic.
  • Another significant aspect of the mosaic that was influenced by both staff and students, were words which encapsulate Mr Furlong’s legacy and the lessons each of us will take from him and remember throughout life.
  • The words are as you can see here … passion, courage, dedication, kindness, integrity, humour

 

Tamanna Steven and the Memorial Team