October 2015 - the idea for a painting was born. Jane Riberzani, a former member of staff at the University’s English Language Teaching Centre, had sadly died of a lung disease in 2014 and her family were keen to honour her memory by making a donation to the University and to commission a piece of artwork. Jane’s sister Laura contacted Richard Simpson, Director of the ELTC, and together with Miles Stevenson, Director of Alumni Relations and Events (DARE), the idea for the painting of ‘The Big Walk’ took shape.
Only a few weeks before, a team of 21 staff and friends of the University had walked the entire Pennine Way in 14 days to raise funds for lung disease research, in particular research into Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension, led by one of the walkers, Dr Allan Lawrie. The team were then joined by a further 110 staff, alumni, students and friends to walk the final 18 miles back to Sheffield in a One Day Challenge. Thanks to the Riberzani family’s generous donation, funds raised by the Big Walk 2015 have now reached a total of over £86,000.
Who better to approach to tell the story of the Big Walk, as well as Jane Riberzani’s work at the University, than Sheffield artist Joe Scarborough? Joe was already a familiar name to thousands of people in Sheffield and in the University as his paintings ‘Our University’, which commemorated the University’s centenary in 2005, and ‘Our Students’ Journey’ were well known.
In ‘The Big Walk’ Joe has included many references to Jane’s life and the Big Walk. Close inspection shows that Joe included Jane herself twice in the painting – once with a group of her international students, and also enjoying a moment’s relaxation in the Peace Gardens.
Joe has kindly taken part in three events to launch ‘The Big Walk’ and the sale of prints of the painting, which are continuing to raise funds for lung disease research. In October 2016, with the painting only just dry, an event celebrating the Big Walks in both 2015 and 2016 was held to unveil the painting for the first time. Walkers from both years were able to hear Joe tell the story of how his ideas for the painting developed, and to have an insight into many of the details in the painting.
Then on 1 December, Joe enthralled an audience of participants in the Big Walks and local alumni at an event at the Anglers Rest in Bamford, by talking about his early life and how it had impacted on his subsequent career as an artist. The Anglers Rest features in the painting, having played an important part in the Big Walk 2015 as it was on the route of the One Day Challenge, and every walker was offered water and sustenance.
Finally, on 9 December in a private ceremony with Jane’s family and former colleagues, the painting ended its journey and was hung in its final position, in the English Language Teaching Centre. Laura Riberzani spoke movingly about her sister and her positive attitude in the face of her illness. Richard Simpson referred to Jane’s popularity in the ELTC among her colleagues and students, Dr Allan Lawrie explained the impact of the funds raised on his lung disease research project, and Joe Scarborough was able to explain the various references in the painting.