Statue of first man in space gets lift-off in London, 50 years late

As the first man to rocket into space on 12 April 1961, Yuri Gagarin was fêted in his homeland as a hero of the Cold War. Then, just three months after his historic mission, he made the much shorter – and less prestigious – flight to Manchester as the guest of the British Foundry Workers' Union.

Now, 50 years later, Gagarin's unlikely visit, which became a tour and included lunch with the Queen, is to be commemorated with a statue on London's Mall.

The monument, the first of a Soviet-era Russian in the capital, will sit opposite Captain Cook's statue near Admiralty Arch. It will be a copy of an already-existing statue in Lyubertsy, on the outskirts of Moscow, where Gagarin trained to be a foundry work at a steel plant, before beginning his training for space travel.

The British Council, working with Russian space agency, Roscosmos, has coordinated the placement of the statue, which is part of YuriGagarin50, a year-long celebration of Gagarin's historic flight as well as British and Russian achievements in space flight. The official unveiling of the statue is set to take place in July, to coincide with the 50th anniversary of Gagarin's British tour.

Gagarin arrived in London on the morning of 11 July 1961. He made a visit to the Russian Embassy before flying to Manchester the following day, where he met representatives of the Amalgamated Union of Foundry Workers. The organisation's president gave Gagarin a gold medal, before the cosmonaut went on to meet Prime Minister Harold Macmillan in London, and had lunch with the Queen and Prince Philip. He also attended a reception at the Society for Cultural Relations between the British Commonwealth and the USSR, now renamed the Society for Co-operation in Russian and Soviet Studies (SCRSS), in Kensington.

"The British government had to play catch-up back then because Gagarin wasn't officially invited by them," said SCRSS vice-chair Ralph Gibson. "By July he had become the first international superstar. He wasn't a film star or a politician. You see that thousands of people greeted him quite spontaneously. As far as I am aware his British visit was his first to a Western country. At the height of the Cold War it was extraordinary for him to be greeted in the way he was."

According to reports in Russian media, the statue will be copied by Russian sculptor Pavel Medvedev, who has 30 years of experience of specialising in small sculptures.

He said working on the Gagarin statue wasn't easy. "We had to make an exact copy; as a sculptor, if you're doing a copy you want to leave the fingerprints of the initial sculptor," he said. The Lyubertsy monument, which is about 30 years old, was scanned using special equipment, to make a 3D model, then a cast of the monument was made, which served as the base for the new mould.

"Many moulds were made which were then collated in to one," said the head metal specialist of the project, Igor Gorbunov. "A cast was made which we then poured liquid metal into." Those involved employed an aluminum/silicone alloy.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
Hillary Clinton comments on viral Humans of New York photo of gay teenager
Arts and Entertainment
The gang rape scene in the Royal Opera’s production of Gioachino Rossini’s Guillaume Tell has caused huge controversy
music
Sport
wimbledonScot will face Ivo Karlovic next
Life and Style
Kissing
life
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Spanish Speaking

£17000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - German Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Japanese Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you are fluent in Japanese a...

Recruitment Genius: Graphic Designer - Immediate Start

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test