Hundreds of RSPB supporters and visitors flocked to see the shortlisted statue designs as they began their grand tour of reserves last week. With each bronze maquette weighing an average of 8kg, taking four Emily Williamsons on the road is no mean feat. First stop on Andrew Simcock’s 2000-mile road trip was RSPB Bempton Cliffs, Yorkshire, on 9 August, where enthusiastic visitors clustered around the different versions of Emily before casting their votes.
Bempton's star visitor this month is a black-browed albatross, blown way off course. The reserve’s most unusual species for a decade is attracting birders from far and wide – and, by coincidence, Eve Shepherd’s statue includes an albatross hiding at the base of Emily’s crinoline. Spotting this proved a fun challenge for the RSPB’s younger visitors.
Three days later, and Andrew was unwrapping the four Emilys within sight of the Middlesbrough Transporter Bridge at RSPB Saltholme, a bird-rich wetland surrounded by industrial landscape. The iconic bridge was opened in 1911 – the same year that Emily Williamson, Eliza Phillips and Etta Lemon launched their hard-hitting RSPB campaign to save the great and little egret from the plumage trade and extinction.
Saltholme’s star visitor was bird scientist Melissa Bateson, Emily’s great, great niece (pictured below, with binoculars). Melissa is a professor of ethology at Newcastle University, with a specialism in starling behaviour. That's why sculptor Clare Abbatt has chosen to portray the young Melissa releasing a starling (a species in rapid decline). RSPB Saltholme is famous for its starling murmurations, yet few visitors inspecting the maquettes were aware that starlings once made a favourite hat decoration.
Martin, a regular visitor, liked Laury Dizengremel’s ‘simple and gracious’ design.
Jean, who works in the cafe, liked the ‘family feeling’ and ‘link with the future’ behind Clare Abbatt’s version of great, great niece Melissa Bateson as a girl alongside Emily.
The Davis family from Stockton on Tees crowded excitedly around Eve Shepherd’s design, spotting the many different birds hidden in Emily’s skirts.
Billie Bond’s design looked bewitching with the Transporter Bridge as a backdrop, telling two very different tales of Edwardian industry.
Campaign Chair Andrew Simcock was full of praise for the RSPB teams at both locations. ‘They really gave us a tremendous welcome and helped the day go smoothly. The 2,000 mile, ten date road trip around the UK is now well under way.’
COMING UP: The four Emilys will be calling at RSPB Headquarters The Lodge in Sandy, Bedfordshire, on Tuesday 17 August, before moving on to RSPB Dungeness on the Kent coast on Thursday 19 August, 10am-4pm each day.
Maquette photos by Andrew Simcock.
Bempton Cliffs photo by Bruce Rollinson.