Photography: Gareth Jones

The Peace Doves

Liverpool Cathedral 8/6/21

Upon entering the Cathedral after the obligatory NHS check-in and hand sanitising, a sense of peace envelopes the space. An unspoken rule that this is a place for personal reflection and to just stop and look at the installation before us. Walking through the corridors towards The Peace Doves, I can hear very little, just my own footsteps and those around me. People take photos and selfies, children run under Peter Walker’s much-anticipated exhibit, giggling and pointing at the doves as they gently move in the breeze. Couples sit together holding hands, watching the lights change across the floor.

Due to go on display in May 2020 before being postponed, the exhibition is just one of many thousands of events cancelled across the country as we were plunged into a world of lockdowns, social distancing and isolation. The buzz surrounding the reopening began to build early in the year with ticket slots completely filled within hours of the booking system going online.

The soaring installation features around 18,000 paper doves suspended from over 15 miles of ribbon. Many of the doves carry messages written by the public. These are messages of hope and peace, notes for those who have been lost over the last year, and messages that are wishing for better times ahead.

In the Cathedral, beyond the realms of religion and faith, there is a sense of community. For decades it has been a place for the city to gather in its darkest times, as well as its brightest days. It is a creative and community hub and a beacon of power and pride within the city. Like many venues across the country, the Cathedral’s doors have been closed for much of the last 15 months and so it is a momentous feeling to know that once again, we are allowed to come together and share in this event.

Directly underneath the sculpture, bright lights descend from above and accompany the soundscape – composed by David Harper, a long time collaborator of Walker – to fill the air with twinkling sounds reminiscent of a jewellery box. It almost feels as if you are in a dream, the gentle sounds lulling you into calmness and the pink hue settling across each wing.

The entire premise behind the Peace Doves is poignantly appropriate for the current climate we find ourselves in. In the space you can reflect privately and wish for your own peace, whilst also sharing in a larger wish for these terrible times to come to an end. It is a reflection on how much has changed over the past 15 months and how much we have endured. But despite the physical installation being one that is so delicate and fragile, it is also a symbol of the strength and courage we have shown and that in these little moments, there is always a place to see the light.

Helen took part in Bido Lito!’s Bylines writers programme, developing young culture writers of the future.  For more information and to find out about the next intake, visit bidolito.co.uk/workshops

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