Let's Set Up A Local Memorial Site

ANOTHER day – and another teenager s life is slashed to ribbons by knife crime. When tragedy strikes beyond its immediate community, you instinctively want to gesture some support towards the victims, maybe even leave flowers at the inevitable, impromptu

ANOTHER day - and another teenager's life is slashed to ribbons by knife crime.

When tragedy strikes beyond its immediate community, you instinctively want to gesture some support towards the victims, maybe even leave flowers at the inevitable, impromptu roadside memorial.

And yet, when mass grief turns into mob mourning, as it did at times in Soham six years ago, it hinders rather than helps a wounded community come to terms with its loss.

This predicament was forcefully brought home to me when I was DJing in New York last January.


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It was around the time the Brokeback Mountain movie star, Heath Ledger, accidentally overdosed on legally prescribed medication for insomnia and depression, while resident in the city.

By showing the love that can flower between a pair of Wyoming sheep herders, Brokeback Mountain became a vital emblem for many in my community - and I felt compelled to leave some flowers and a poem outside Heath's apartment.

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So you can imagine my heartbreak when I turned up outside Heath's flat - in Manhattan's uber-fashionable SoHo district - only to find a circus of press, crowds and police. My partner and I took not a shred of comfort from the frenzied scenes marring this ill-starred actor's 'final scene'.

I should have known better because it was a repeat of the time one Sunday, in that cruel summer of 2002, when I'd gone to Soham to pay my respects to the murdered school girls, Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman.

I remember it took me over half an hour to find a parking space, because of mob of TV crews and other ghoulish day trippers had lain siege to this once quiet market town in the Fens to gawp at our tragedy.

To make matters worse, the local grocery store had sold out of flowers - and I'm, ashamed to admit that my then partner and I had to improvise a wreath for the girls out of some blooms taken from a public display.

Let's face it - mass mourning is no new phenomenon. After all, we have the fine Prince Albert pub in Ely - a testament to the strong local links Queen Victoria's husband had in this area as Chancellor of Cambridge University, and whose early death itself prompted a Diana-style outpouring of emotion.

The question, really, is how we can better handle grief on a mass scale in the future; and I was pleased to hear of a novel solution on my return from Manhattan in January.

In an attempt to honour Heath Ledger without buying into the Manhattan media frenzy, a few American towns staged their own 'local' memorials to the overdose victim.

These intimate 'satellite' shrines gave mass grief a new kind of dignity - and also prevented a lot of unnecessary automobile journeys, which Heath would have greatly appreciated as he was very big on environmental issues.

So when the rising toll of knife crime recently claimed a teenage star from the latest Harry Potter film, I wondered whether we might set up a local memorial of our own to him here in Ely - as a show of compassion by East Cambs for the victims of knife crime.

Such a site could also serve as a memorial for other major tragedies in the future (God, forbid!) - say, the tragic death of a schoolchild or the victims of drink drivers on the A10 and A142,

With its parking facilities and proximity to Ely's retail heart, the old skate park at the Paradise Centre would make an ideal venue for such a shrine - if our city burghers don't concrete over it with the Masterplan.

As a focal point for tributes/flowers etc, we could even relocate the memorial currently marooned near the back of Waitrose car park - or even commission a fresh sculpture from our area's thriving artistic community to symbolise the meaning of tragic loss.

C RYLANCE

Deacons lane

Ely

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