Holt School students unveil mosaic in memory of former teacher killed in Forbury Gardens terror attack

Award winning artist and creator of the mosaic, Gary Drostle with student Tamanna Steven, who led the project. Picture: Jess Warren

STUDENTS at The Holt School unveiled a mosaic to celebrate their former teacher, James Furlong. 

This morning, pupils at the Wokingham school spoke about creating a permanent memorial to the former history teacher, who was killed in the Forbury Garden terror attack last June.

It was unveiled yesterday to the school community and Mr Furlong’s immediate family, with a ceremony at 3.30pm.

Tamanna Steven, 18, led the project as part of her Extended Project Qualification (EPQ).

Mr Furlong had been her original supervisor, and after his death, she wanted to create a piece of art in her memory.

“He had such a massive impact on my life, I wanted to create some kind of permanent memorial,” she said.

Edie Sudlow, 14, who spoke at yesterday’s unveiling, described Mr Furlong as a “light of the school”.

The project raised £12,300 in donations, quadrupling the initial target to create a memorial. 

With the money, the school commissioned Gary Drostle, an international award-winning artist with more than 30 years’ experience with mosaics.

“It was a real privilege to be asked to create this,” he said. “When I found out about the project, I knew it was a big responsibility, after such a tragedy.

“There was a lot to think about to make it meaningful and positive,” he added. “Students have a lot of love for Mr Furlong.”

The mosaic depicts a golden heart, surrounded by symbolic images. 

“For me, the golden heart in the middle is James,” Mr Drostle said. “The mirror represented the spirit of the students, reflecting them in the mosaic.”

There is a circle of hearts, created by students and staff, which is then surrounded by a mosaic rainbow, to represent Mr Furlong in the LGBTQ+ community.

The words passion, courage, dedication, kindness, integrity and humour then surround the shape, each chosen by students as a representation of their teacher’s values. 

The mosaic also includes hunky punks, typically seen on Late Gothic churches, much like gargoyles. 

It is surrounded by a small garden with benches for reflection.

Mr Drostle added: “Mosaics are a nice medium for public work, they’re very accessible as people can see the amount of work that has gone into it.” 

The design was shaped by student input, with workshops organised to help fine-tune the artwork. 

Students new to the school in September last year did not know Mr Furlong, but Ms Steven said she wants to ensure he is never forgotten.

She will be creating a recurring “thought of the week” to introduce the former teacher to students, and explain the significance of the mural.

“I want to make sure his legacy lives on through everyone,” she said.

She spoke at yesterday’s event, and at the memorial service in Forbury Gardens last week.

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