The Three Degrees
The Celebration Statue is being created in honour of the outstanding contribution that was made in the fight against racism in football in the during 1980's by three of the greatest players ever to have worn the shirt of West Bromwich Albion: Laurie Cunningham, Brendon Batson and Cyrille Regis.
Laurie Cunningham was the first black player to represent England in a full international when he played against Wales in May 1979.
Brendon Batson is one of football’s leading administrators.
And Cyrille Regis was recently voted the most iconic Albion player of all time by fans of the club.
When complete the statue – cast in bronze and 10-foot high – will be a permanent tribute to three players who have made an enormous contribution to the sporting and cultural heritage of our country.
What we're doing
For the past five years sculptor Graham Ibbeson has worked closely with Jim Cadman, the man behind the project, and a team of volunteers in raising the funds for the 'Celebration Statue'.
Cyrille Regis was involved in the project every step of the way in developing the statue, from the initial drawings to the creation of a maquette and the sculpting of a full size clay model .
Cyrille even took pride in showing a model of the statue to Martin Luther King III during a meeting with him at Wembley Stadium (pictured below).
The statue – which will take pride of place in West Bromwich – has also received considerable support from Brendan Batson and Laurie Cunningham's family and is tantalisingly close to completion.
The projected cost of the statue was £220,000 but we're now into injury time and we need £38,000 to finish it.
That's why we're turning to the Crowd for their support to make the statue a reality
With the recent tragic loss of our great friend Cyrilie Regis a new sense of urgency has entered the arena – and we want to try and complete the project before 25 April 2018.
This date will be the 40th anniversary of Cyrille, Brendon and Laurie starting a game for West Bromwich Albion together for the first time when they played in the team that beat Everton 3-1 at The Hawthorns during Albion’s Centenary Year.
During this year we will also mark the 25th anniversary of the Kick it Out campaign, which challenges discrimination and encourages inclusive practices and work for positive change in the game.
The Celebration Statue so far
There has been an enormous amount of hard work done by working with the community in West Bromwich, local businesses, educational institutions, the national football community – and of course the West Bromwich Albion Supporters Club and all of the Baggies fans who have worked with us to support the project in so many ways.
With the help of Sandwell Council, the Professional Footballers Association, 'Kick it Out', the Football Association and the people of West Bromwich we started with a germ of an idea five years ago to 'Celebrate' the achievements - with a bronze statue - of the three young black footballers who played for West Bromwich Albion in the late 1970's.
Graham Ibbeson produced a scale model (maquette) that was cast into bronze in the shadow of the 'Hawthorns' at Lunts Casting Ltd, Middlemore Road. With the full backing and financial support from of Sandwell Council plus fundraising and private sponsorship I moved on to sculpt the three 10 foot figures in clay.
These figures were approved by Brendan, Cyrille and the Cunningham Family before we went on to mould them for preparation for bronze casting.
Martin Luther King III was present at the event and was very enthusiastic about our project, so much so that he arranged for a cast of the maquette to be taken to the Centre for Civil Rights Museum, in Atlanta.
The whole sculpture – standing over 10 feet - is now cast into bronze and awaits the final push to have all sections welded together, fine finishing and patinated before it can be installed.
We are now approaching the last hurdle and the work detailed above could be completed in a period of two months - but we need to raise the final amount of £38,000 to fund this work.
Visit the website
Meet the sculptor: Graham Ibbeson
The ability of Graham Ibbeson, pictured below working on the statue, to capture the essence of a character with warmth and humanity sets him apart from many other sculptors.
His devotion to portraying the spirit of the people with a liberal sprinkling of humour also makes his work a joy to behold.
Graham's original studies of some of the greatest characters of the Twentieth Century include Laurel and Hardy, Benny Hill, William Webb Ellis and Freddie Trueman.
Graham also created the statue of Eric Morecambe which was unveiled by theQueen in 1999 and has since become one of the most popular tourist attractions in England.
His latest work is a bronze of Laurie Cunningham that stands proudly in Leyton, unveiled last year near Orient's ground with Cyrille Regis and Laurie Cunningham's son, Sergio among the guests.