Published: 18th MAY 2023

Brand new ‘portrait bench’ celebrating local heroes unveiled in Bristol

Local heroes are being celebrated in Bristol by being immortalised in steel portraits on the National Cycle Network. The ‘portrait benches’ project was rolled out in recognition of Her Late Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee year, thanks to funding from the Department for Transport.

people gather to cut the ribbon on brand new portrait bench in Lawrence Weston Bristol.

The new portrait bench has been installed as part of our national campaign to recognise local heroes in the communities surrounding the National Cycle Network. Credit: Sustrans

Residents across Lawrence Weston were invited to have their say on who they believe has made a positive impact on their local community in the last seven decades, in celebration of the UK’s longest-reigning monarch.

Celebrating community volunteering in Lawrence Weston

One figure recognises Mark Pepper, a lifelong resident of Lawrence Weston who has devoted more than three decades to improving the area.

Working across community development, youth work and social care, Mark has enabled countless people and projects to thrive.

In 2012, Mark worked with other local people to found the grassroots charity Ambition Lawrence Weston, which has secured funding to make the community an even better place to live and work.

Speaking about the portraits, Mark said: “I hope this installation will be a reminder of the sacrifice and commitment that NHS keyworkers and resident community volunteers gave during the pandemic and who continue to give unselfish support to others every single day."

Local community volunteer stands next to the portrait bench of him on the national cycle network in Lawrence Weston, Bristol.

Mark has given his time and skills, alongside many fellow volunteers, to make a positive difference in the local area. Credits: Sustrans

Recognising the selfless contribution of NHS staff

A second figure recognises NHS staff across the UK as valued members of their local communities.

From nurses to doctors, porters to caterers, administrative staff to allied health professionals, each and every key worker has been vital in caring for the public through the Covid-19 pandemic and beyond.

They stand together as more than 1.3 million selfless staff members supporting us every day across the UK.

Speaking about the portrait, Veronica Pickering, a local GP, said:

Many of the residents of Lawrence Weston are key workers within the NHS so it feels a very appropriate setting to celebrate all their different roles.

"A portrait bench is such a lovely idea, promoting well-being, particularly in a part of our city where people are facing the many challenges of health inequality.”

Local GP stands next to portrait bench recognising NHS staff on the National Cycle Network in Lawrence Weston, Bristol.

One of the new portraits celebrates the work of NHS staff in the area and across the UK. Credits: Sustrans

Unveiling the brand new portrait bench

On Friday 28 April, the figures were unveiled at their new home on National Cycle Network Route 41 in Lawrence Weston.

The unveiling was celebrated by Mark, Veronica, and representatives from Sustrans.

At the heart of the community

Sarah Leeming, Director for the south of England at Sustrans, explained: “We’re really pleased to see Mark, and the people working for the NHS, recognised for the brilliant support they provide the community around them in Lawrence Weston.

"Just like the National Cycle Network, they are at the heart of the community.

“At Sustrans, we’re committed to ensuring that the National Cycle Network continues to enable as many people as possible to walk, wheel, cycle, and run, and as a network of ‘Paths for Everyone’, that they celebrate the communities they run through.”

Celebrating those who have gone above and beyond across England

In total, 30 new life-sized steel figures are being installed across England.

They will complement the existing 250 figures which were installed as part of the ‘portrait bench’ campaign over 12 years ago.

They’ve been designed and fabricated by renowned artists Katy and Nick Hallett and are being installed on the National Cycle Network to celebrate achievements of individuals and groups who have gone above and beyond for their communities.


Find out more about the new portrait benches on the National Cycle Network

Read about our ongoing efforts to create a network of paths for everyone

Share this page

Read more news from the south west of England