Shropshire Star

Shropshire Knife Angel's tragic inspiration is revealed

Grieving mother Alison Cope was today revealed as the inspiration behind Shropshire's Knife Angel.


The Angel, being created at the county's British Ironwork Centre, is made up of thousands of knives, all handed in through police amnesties. Alison, who has family in Shropshire, lost her son Josh at the age of just 18 when he was murdered.

Alison Cope with the Knife Angel at the British Ironwork Centre

She became a campaigner against knife crime and continues to tour schools to speak to children about the dangers of carrying a weapon.

When Ironwork Centre owner Clive Knowles considered launching the Knife Angel project, it was Alison who was first consulted.

Alison said: "I didn't hesitate to say yes. Anything that can be done to stop people carrying knives has to be welcomed. It is an amazing piece of art."

Now, when Alison looks at the Knife Angel sculpture, it is with a mix of horror and appreciation on her face.

She marvels at the beauty of the angel's wings, the emotion, sadness and confusion on its face.

Yet as she looks at each individual knife that has been used to create the statue she knows that one very similar was used to murder her son.

Josh Ribera was just 18 and a rising star in the music world – known to his fans as grime artist Depzman.

He had just appeared with Skepta in Malaga and seen his album hit the iTunes charts when his life was taken in a moment of madness at a party.

Since that night in September 2013, when her son told her he loved her then never came home, Alison has devoted her life to educating young people about the dangers of carrying knives and trying to build up the self-esteem she says too many lack in today's world of social media and fear.

She tours the Midlands giving talks to children and young people in schools, special education centres, young offenders' institutes and prisons.

Alison was one of the first mothers to carve a message on to one of the blades of the Knife Angel, the sculpture that could one day grace the fourth plinth in London's Trafalgar Square.

Alison Cope

In fact the 43-year-old says it was she whom Oswestry businessman Clive Knowles approached to ask if his idea for a sculpture to mark his Surrender a Knife, Protect a Life campaign was appropriate.

"I didn't hesitate to say yes. Anything that can be done to stop people carrying knives has to be welcomed," she said.

"It is an amazing piece of art. The angel's expression is so full of sadness, its hands outstretched are asking, why?"

The sculpture, created by artist Alfie Bradley stands almost complete at the British Ironwork Centre, built from knives donated by virtually every police force in Britain.

Mr Knowles said the only forces left to join in were South Yorkshire Police, West Yorkshire Police and Sussex Police.

Detail from the Knife Angel

He said: "All three forces have now committed to releasing knifes and to support our National Monument against Violence and Aggression.

"If we can arrange collection, we can finish the monument for this summer, enabling us to finally apply for the fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square.

"With knife crime continuing to rise, everyday really matters; we need the monument to fulfil its destiny and cast the strongest of spotlights on this national blight."

Alison, who has a sister, artist Dea Paradisos and family living in Shrewsbury, travelled from home in Moseley to the British Ironwork Centre to see the progress of the sculpture in between spreading her own message.

She is passionate that it is time that the Government took up the campaigning reins that volunteers – she and other families of knife crime victims, the British Ironworks and charities – have led with.

The face of the Knife Angel

"We need official support. Putting government adverts on websites or the television isn't getting to the young people. Speaking to them in schools, in prisons, telling them my son didn't come home because someone took a knife out to a party and you can see the reaction in their eyes.

"I ask them to think how their mum or the person who cares for them would feel. So many young people know who my son was. They say 'This isn't the police or a social worker, it's Depzman's mum'.

"The boy who killed my son didn't go out intending to kill someone that night. In a moment of madness two families were destroyed. And when he was locked up in a prison cell he didn't feel like a murderer, he was a boy who just wanted his mum to put her arms around him."

Alison says today's society and the internet has a lot to answer for.

Detail from the Knife Angel

"When I was growing up if there was a fight in the park then only those involved knew about it. Now, with social media everyone knows in seconds.

"Young people are bombarded with message. Girls are told they have to look a certain way, boys are told they should get tattoos, be tough, carry knives. There is the fear factor too. In today's world we are told to fear this and fear that. Lads, and girls, go out for the night and, because of fear, they take a knife with them.

"We as parents don't talk to our children any more. They are attached to their phones or tablets constantly and we don't know what they are looking at.

"If the Knife Angel has helped to take knives off the streets, it has already done so much. If it can go on the fourth plinth and make someone stop and think and not go out with a knife it can do so much more."

Members of the public can pledge their support for the Knife Angel to go on the fourth plinth by going on to the British Ironwork Centre website or calling in at the centre on the A5 south of Oswestry.

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