Every year on the 23rd of June since 2013, people have been leaving flowers at the foot of the Alan Turing memorial in Manchester’s Sackville Gardens. The project, led by Dr Joe Reddington, founder of eQuality Time, has two goals.
Firstly, to raise money for Special Effect, a charity that uses technology to put fun and inclusion back into the lives of people with physical disabilities by helping them to play video games. Since laying that first bunch of flowers in 2013, the event has raised over £9,800.
And to remember the profoundly impressive Alan Turing.
Alan Turing was a brilliant mathematician most famous for his crucial role during WW2 in cracking the ENIGMA coded messages. This enabled the Allies to defeat the Nazis in many crucial engagements, saving millions of lives. Because his work was covered by the Official Secrets Act his work was never fully recognised during his lifetime.
At the foot of the memorial in Sackville Gardens lies a plaque with a powerful summary of who he was: Father of Computer Science, Mathematician, Logician, Wartime Codebreaker. Yet his legacy has been more than that.
It’s also apt that his birthday falls in LGBT History Month, giving us another reason to remember this remarkable man right now. Turing was prosecuted in 1952 for homosexual acts. He accepted chemical castration treatment as an alternative to prison. Turing died in 1954, from cyanide poisoning and an inquest determined his death as a suicide.
“At about Christmas in 2012 I was talking with some CompSci friends from various backgrounds and the subject of Alan Turing’s statue in Manchester came up,” says Dr Reddington when describing how Flowers for Turing began.
“I mentioned that I’d be in Manchester around the time of Turing’s Birthday and thought it might be nice to put some flowers at the statue as a recognition of a man who was very important to both histories, and to the whole area in which we work.
“One thing led to another, and when we spoke to friends from other universities more and more of them wanted to be involved. So on the night of the 22nd of June, three of us stood in front of Turing’s statue in Manchester having carefully carried in sixteen different flower bouquets that had been paid for by CompSci (and related subjects) postdocs and PhD students.
“It all went a bit viral after that, and the people of Manchester joined in with gusto – more flowers appeared, balloons, and a party hat. We’ve been doing it every year.”