The path of life is mapped but may not be visible to the eyes of you and I. If offered a chance to see the road ahead, would we chose to know or would we allow life to unveil itself daily? It’s food for thought, especially when we look back on life’s journey; the crossroads, the highways and byways, the avenues and cold-de-sacs.

Three years ago, a late colleague alerted me to the unveiling of a Sikh soldier in the neighbouring area of Smethwick. He was emphatic that I participated in the ceremony and felt that I would benefit from exposure to the planning and coordination of the undertaking. Additionally, he saw an opportunity for me to interact with various individuals from the community.

Heeding his advice, I attended the event where I met the statue’s creator, Luke Perry. I congratulated him for the outstanding lifelike representation of the gallant men who so bravely fought to secure peace for our nation.

At the conclusion of our brief encounter Luke gave me his business card which I dutifully added to my collection. Three years later an idea began to form in my mind that required a sculpture. I immediately remembered Luke and raced to find his card from our previous encounter.

The map of life dictated that I find Luke’s card and then I pondered for a few days whether or not to call him. I did eventually and an amazing sequence of events ensued.

Luke did not instantly recall our meeting of 3 years earlier. Thankfully the context of the unveiling ceremony pinpointed our meeting in his memory. While discussing our past brief encounter, Luke mentioned his passion for creating and building representative sculptures reflecting the lives of people in the local community. He went on to describe one such sculpture in Handsworth Park, a leisure area and facility that occupied many, many hours of my youth. My ears pricked up especially after he described the monument as representing people travelling from other countries to Handsworth. He also mentioned the name of the figure on the bow of the boat, Hector Pinckney MBE, and it so happened that Hector and I lived on the same street during some of my earlier years.

Luke also mentioned the involvement of a famous photographer Dr Vanley Burke. Vanley is my cousin; we were born in the same household, 2 weeks apart. Vanley has been credited for his dedication, vision and professionalism in photography, by recording countless images which has become outstanding and an integral part of the journey of the life of numerous individuals.

Visit to see SS Journey monument in Handsworth Park with my granddaughter Amelia, Feb 2021

Intrigued, I visited the monument in Handsworth Park the very next day with my granddaughter Amelia. This sculpture is virtually on my doorstep and I wasn’t aware it. The presence of such an image in my local park was inspired by the journey made by Luke Perry’s family friends who made the epic sea crossing from Jamaica to Handswoth. The detail and outline of the journey depicting how some people travelled to Britain from various countries, provided comfort that some of the forgotten generations are being remembered.

I immediately identified with the concept and practical representation of the monument as I was one of the many who travelled from the Caribbean to Handsworth. I also learned that the SS Journey is a part of the Handsworth Park Arts Trail and that the Arts Trail was officially launched by my cousin, distinguished local photographer Vanley Burke, on the 6th October 2017.

Plaque by SS Journey monument Handsworth Park

The outstanding Arts Trail was an idea devised by Visual Artist Pauline Bailey and Consultant/Project Manager Jan Kimber from Handsworth Creative. After the success of a temporary trail in 2015 the Arts Council funded a permanent arts trail developed over a three-year period from 2017. During the launch of the first sculpture commissioned by Handsworth Creative to renowned Regional Sculptor Luke Perry, Photographer Vanley Burke officially opened the event with a great opening speech championing the cause of Artists (especially local artists). A subsequent 2 more sculptures were commissioned, and Pauline created the four-sided Pyramid Tower as an integral part of the Arts Trail.

Further information can be found at:

Forward Together Monument, unveiled 4th July 2021, in Birmingham City Centre

The next day I called Luke and thanked him for a job very well done. About two weeks later he phoned inviting me to participate in a new project of his. He explained the concept of creating and building a structure to include 25 people from the local community, together pulling the Birmingham Coat of Arms forward into the future.

The Birmingham Coat of Arms represents local people and industry. The idea of updating the concept was extremely fitting and to include the motto of Birmingham ‘Forward’ in the name of the monument ‘Forward Together’ was a stroke of genius by Luke.

I became very enthusiastic and somewhat overwhelmed to be included in such a project. I later learned that the other 24 participants were from all walks of life, representing many ethnicities within the community. Importantly, the project had to be completed within 2 weeks from start to finish as a part of the agreement. Each participant had to visit Luke’s factory to be photographed so that a cast of all individuals could be made to bring the concept to life.

Birmingham City Council determined that the monument would be a fitting symbol to be included in the Commonwealth Games 2022 cultural programme, and therefore agreed that it could be erected in the City Centre.

The massive undertaking of creating and building such a impressive structure was completed by the FAB five, as I call them. Luke Perry, Nats Perry, Raaj Shamiji, Halding Wright and Pauline Bailey.

The FAB5 (left to right) Raaj Shamiji, Sculptor Luke Perry, Nats Perry, Haldin Wright and Pauline Bailey. Image by Jas Sani

Meeting Pauline while she was working on my effigy in the factory

The path of life so planned it that Pauline Bailey and I would meet for the first time during the construction of the project but more significantly at the unveiling of monument on the 4th July 2021.

It was then that Pauline revealed to me that she is the daughter of the wonderful Auntie Joyce or Miss Joyce Nelson, as she was affectionately known. I personally called her Mum Nelson, a lady I have know for decades who often spoke of her children, including Pauline and her work in the community. I had no idea of the relation until Pauline revealed who her mother was. It was a very pleasantly surprise to link both individuals together. Amazing!

See Article on Forward Together monument:

Pauline Bailey & Donald Campbell at the unveiling of the Forward Together monument, Birmingham 4th July 2021

In summary, the path of life is often thrust upon us in various ways and disguises. Some are mundane and others can be significant, but nonetheless they all form the map of our journey. If we take the time to look at our lives we may be surprised at the number of connection points.

The Path of life, would we like to know or would we prefer to let it unveil as the good Lord planned it.

By Donald Campbell
December 2021