DESPITE ‘retiring’ more than two years ago famous sculptor Graham Ibbeson is enjoying his busiest year yet - but he says he will be unveiling his last public sculpture this year.

The Barnsley artist told the Chronicle back in 2016 that he would be retiring after the creation of a memorial to the victims of the Oaks Colliery Disaster which would be his last major work.

However he was soon coaxed back out of retirement when asked to create a statue in tribute to Barnsley author Barry Hines. The statue depicts the young Billy Casper and his kestrel Kes but its placement in the town is yet to be decided.

The sculptor has since also been commissioned to create a statue of renowned and well-loved comedian Victoria Wood - who died of cancer in 2016.

He has also finished off a long-planned work The Celebration - a piece comprising of former footballers Cyrille Regis MBE, Brendon Batson and Laurie Cunningham, who all played for West Bromwich Albion FC and became known as the Three Degrees.

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Both pieces have just been unveiled to the public by Graham just four days apart.

The Celebration statue represents the three black footballers’ roles in battling discrimination and overcoming prejudice in the footballing community.

The statue was originally supposed to be unveiled in July 2014, to mark the anniversary of Laurie Cunningham’s death, but due to a halt in fund-raising it was delayed until the Professional Footballers’ Association donated the final £38,000 to complete the £240,000 statue.

Graham said both statues were a lot of work and that 2019 has been the ‘busiest year’ for him.

The sculptor - who is set to unveil his Kes statue for Barnsley later this year - said he enjoyed both unveilings and that both were ‘completely different’.

“With The Celebration, people came from all over the world and it was like a carnival - there was a brilliant atmosphere,” said Graham.

“With the unveiling of the Victoria Wood statue, she was born in the north and well-loved so there were quite a few celebrities there. The crowd was great. I had good feedback from everybody that was there. I based my sculpture on here in the 1980s to 1990s, mainly in the late 80s.

“I have been co-ordinating both projects at the same time, which has been quite difficult.

“The Celebration statue took seven years because of the fundraising situation. I’ve had around four projects at the same time so to say I’ve been busy is an understatement.”

Graham told the Chronicle this week he was taking a step back and although he wouldn’t call it ‘retirement’, he said the Kes statue would be his last public sculpture.

He said he will be concentrating on his gallery work, and has an exhibition at the 508 Gallery, Kings Road in Chelsea, London that opens in September.

The artist has done many works for both his home town of Barnsley and around the UK - including The Oaks Memorial, and a sculpture of legendary comedians Morecambe and Wise at Blackpool’s Winter Gardens.