Vote for your favourite statue design to commemorate the Lancaster born founder of the RSPB
- Credit: Mark Waugh Manchester Press Photography Ltd
The campaign to create a statue of RSPB founder and eco pioneer Emily Williamson is underway with a shortlist of four that will be decided by a public vote.
Emily Williamson is not a household name, still less a famous face – author Tessa Boase who instigated the idea has only been able to unearth one photograph of her, she’s received little recognition and her inspiring legacy has been largely unexplored. But that is about to change. The catalyst for this will be a statue for Emily that will stand in the grounds of the home from where her campaigning began; Didsbury’s Fletcher Moss Park, Manchester.
The four short listed designs
Clare Abbatt looks to the future by placing Emily next to a young girl who represents her great great niece, Professor Melissa Bateson, who now works as a bird scientist. The intention is to engage visitors of all ages in the challenges faced by the natural world.
Clare, who lives in Northamptonshire, says, “I’m committed to the idea of taking something forward; of it being not just a memorial, but a living inspiration. I want to celebrate what the RSPB is doing today by creating a piece of work that engages visitors of all ages, which children in particular can enjoy and learn from.”
Billie Bond makes direct reference to ‘murderous millinery’ with a bird hat, turned upsidedown to become a bird bath. Emily is seated quietly and contemplatively on a bench in her garden: the visitor is invited to join her, and reflect on the story.
Billie, who lives in Great Waltham, Essex, says, “To me, the feathers, the hats and the birds were the most important part of the story. The statue needs to shock, to show what was happening. But I wanted the hat to also tell a different story. By turning it upside down, Emily is giving it back to the birds. The little bird perched on the rim is a robin. It’s a symbolic offering: the robin represents rebirth.”
The design of international artist Laury Dizengremel is serene and simple: a young Emily looks tenderly and compassionately at a bird held in her hand. Laury’s aim is for people to have an instant connection to the statue.
Laury, who lives in France, says, “I want people to have an emotional response to my sculpture of Emily. I want it to have an emotional impact. I want people to be able to walk up to it, like a person, and say, “Hi there”.
Eve Shepherd has conceived a design that reveals more the closer one gets – with a crinoline dress that is in fact an organic cliff face, a nesting ground home to the birds that Emily campaigned to save. It also reflects a concern for the future, with birds that are vulnerable today incorporated into the design; owl, heron, grebe and kingfisher.
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Miniature statues of the designs will be on display at Leighton Moss on Wednesday 8th September, visitors will be able to find out more about the project and vote for their favourite.
April 17, 1855: Born Emily Bateson in Lancaster
June 8, 1882: Marries solicitor and anthropologist Robert Williamson. The couple settle in Didsbury
1889: Emily forms the Society for the Protection of Birds.
1891: SPB merges with another all-female campaigning group, the Fur, Fin and Feather Folk
1904: Royal Charter granted, creating the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds
1912: Emily and Robert move to Surrey
1921: The Plumage Act is passed
1932: Robert dies and Emily moves to Kensington, London
January 12, 1936: Emily dies at home at the age of 80
July 1 2021: The Plumage Act’s centenary, four maquettes of Emily were unveiled in Fletcher Moss Park
Until October 31, 2021: Voting on the designs
November 2021: The winning sculptor will be announced
April 17, 2023: The statue to be unveiled in Fletcher Moss Park, Didsbury