Cheltenham student reveals the love behind the plaques

image captionEmily Hutchinson has written an e-book telling the stories of people remembered on park benches

A photo-journalism student has been helping families to share their stories of departed loved ones who are commemorated on park benches.

Emily Hutchinson from Oxfordshire spoke to relatives who had dedicated a bench in Pittville Park, Cheltenham to their family members.

Her e-book of personal stories started as a university project but "very quickly became much more than that."

Relatives said the project had helped to create a community of remembrance.

"It's such a natural thing to notice a name and want to put a face to the name, you do it subconsciously" said Ms Hutchinson, who first became curious about the lives behind the memorials two years ago.

The final year student at University of Gloucestershire took her interest further when she was asked to create an e-book as part of her course-work.

She spent three months contacting and interviewing families and became very attached to their stories: "With everything going on with Covid, I think we are all realising just how important and precious life is" the 22-year-old said.

image copyrightEmily Hutchinson
image captionSean Reagan's daughters gaze on the spot dedicated to his memory

Tilly, Niamh, and Kitty Reagan told Ms Hutchinson about their father, Sean who died suddenly of a heart attack, aged 50. His bench is where he first took Tilly to the park as a baby.

The sisters described it as somewhere they could "almost feel" his presence.

image captionRonald and Joan Orr's park view is now enjoyed by granddaughter Kate and her daughter Lila

Kate Starkey takes her daughter to admire the view that was a favourite of her grandparents. Ronald and Joan Orr's apartment overlooked the park's lake.

Ms Starkey said the e-book had been a "fantastic" project: "For me to see there is a community connected by these benches in Pittville Park is amazing. It means an awful lot to my family."

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