to sculpt Emily Williamson
Hear her talk about her design
'Emily Williamson's statue has to have longevity, which is why I've put in so much detail, because it needs to tell so many stories.
From a distance, it’s a Victorian woman in a stiff crinoline. Get closer, and you’ll see that her skirts are actually a cliff-face studded with vignettes. Owl, heron, grebe, kingfisher… birds once used in millinery, birds that are vulnerable today; also feather workers, eco campaigners… I’d like to use ‘augmented reality’ technology to bring to life all the stories behind the story. This has never yet been done with public sculpture.
My version of Emily draws together both person and landscape. She protects the birds, women and girls within her care; she is the ‘mother of nature’. Visually, the statue will blend in with its leafy surroundings, as Emily’s verdigris skirts fade upwards to a warm conker brown. My work is designed to fit within nature and grow out of nature, as if Emily’s emerging from her surroundings. She is the conservation story. She’s Mother Nature herself.'
On 13 November 2021, Eve Shepherd won the public vote to create the statue of Emily Williamson.
Over 12,000 people from across the world voted in the competition between four short-listed sculptors. Eve was a clear winner.
'I’m honoured to be chosen to create the Emily Williamson statue for Fletcher Moss Park, Manchester and the bird loving community,' says Eve. 'I feel humbled and privileged to sculpt such an important pioneer and eco-activist.
'She was a visionary; a quiet, yet stoic woman, who stood against the norms of her day. She co-created a legacy, the RSPB – a charity that has saved countless bird lives and protected precious natural habitats for future generations to enjoy.
'In my eyes Emily is a shining beacon of how we can save our fragile ecosystem in these unprecedented times.
Emily Williamson was forgotten by history because of her gender. This statue will be both a triumph and a milestone on the journey towards fair representation of women within public sculpture – though we still have some distance to go. I am delighted and excited to have been selected to be part of this!'
Selection Committee Chair Andrew Simcock says:
'We had four high quality entries on this shortlist. We'd like to thank sculptors Clare Abbatt, Billie Bond and Laury Dizengremel for their massive contribution to this contest.
As I toured the four countries of the UK visiting RSPB reserves with the maquettes, there was tremendous engagement with the designs. Eve’s, in particular, was a big hit with children. There was a real sense of their delight as they realised how many birds were present in Emily’s skirt.
Many congratulations to Eve and I really look forward to working with her to make this statue of Emily Williamson become a reality.'
Social Historian Tessa Boase says:
'Sculptor Eve Shepherd is renowned for the depth of her research, and her iconoclastic approach to public artwork. Her statue of Emily Williamson will be an inspiring monument not just to a woman, but to the beauty and vulnerability of birdlife.
If we want the next generation to cherish nature and to safeguard biodiversity, we need to engage young minds and hearts – through telling stories. This statue will contain a multitude of stories and species, drawing the viewer back again and again. Eve's proposed use of augmented reality technology to enhance interpretation will bring an exciting extra dimension.
We couldn’t be more thrilled with the public’s choice of statue to stand in Fletcher Moss Park, Emily Williamson’s garden.'