Sculptors expressed an interest in the Emily Williamson Statue Competition, from New York to Tuscany, Manchester to Brighton.
Entries were submitted by January 31 in a variety of formats: drawings, photographs, maquettes in clay and wax.
Entries were longlisted.
Over 6,000 people voted for their favourites in an online poll.
Sculptors have now been chosen
to progress to the final stage of the competition, producing a maquette in bronze, to be unveiled at the centenary of the Plumage Act in July 2021.
Since being commissioned to create a Virginia Woolf tribute I have focused on the need to celebrate many more women of achievement and redress the imbalance between representations of males versus females in statuary worldwide.
Emily Williamson deserves a commemorative statue. My proposal shows, through her stance and rapport, her great affinity for birds.
Emily Williamson was a forward thinking, kindly and truly inspirational woman – but I see this statue as also celebrating woman-kind and animal-kind as a whole. I’m known for taking on challenging projects and giving a voice to those people and causes that often lie hidden or have been silenced throughout history.
Here, Emily Williamson is freeing a bird from her hand. Her stance is strong yet gentle, her expression and the tilt of her head show kindness yet stoic qualities. As the viewer’s eye travels down the figure, the lower section of the piece acknowledges the environmental and social aspects of Emily’s work.
From a distance her skirt will look like an ordinary crinoline dress with a bustle, but close up it’s an organic cliff face; a nesting ground depiction of the birds she worked so hard to save from the plumage trade. These birds will be lifelike and miniature, nesting within the folds of the dress as if in their natural environments. Can you spot, for example, an owl, kingfisher, snowy egret, penguin and a fledgling?
Also hidden within her dress/landscape are small scenes/dioramas depicting other women relevant to her story – for example Eliza Philips, Etta Lemon and the Duchess of Portland, who, together with Emily Williamson, built the early RSPB.
The figure of Emily Williamson, looking open and positive, stands next to a young girl representing Professor Melissa Bateson, Emily’s great great niece, as a child. The child holds a starling in her hands which is just taking flight. Starlings have declined in the UK by 66% since the 1970s, with a decline of 41% in Greater Manchester during the last two decades. Melissa Bateson is a Professor of Ethology and a starling specialist.
I want to celebrate Emily Williamson’s achievement in founding the RSPB in 1889 (with Etta Lemon and Eliza Phillips), and draw attention to the work the Bateson family has done in the field of science through the generations. I also 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. The future of the natural world, conservation and the RSPB will become our children’s responsibility.
Because of Emily’s impassioned disapproval of the use of bird feathers in fashion and her fight against ‘murderous millinery’ I propose the use of a hat, with stuffed birds, as illustrated, to tell the story.
The hat will be ‘turned on its head’ and presented by Emily upside down. Her outstretched hands will proffer the hat back to the birds as a bird bath – a symbol of protection, a sanctuary of safety and a place where the beauty of the bird can be observed as a living creature. Inside the rim could be the words ‘1889 the fight against ‘murderous millinery’
or – ‘That Lady-Members shall refrain from wearing the feathers of any bird not killed for purposes of food, the ostrich only excepted.’
A sculpture of a living bird to be perched on the rim, or bathing within the hat.
Thank you to our brilliant long-listed dozen
With so many great entries, it was a really tough decision for the judging panel.
All sculptors captured, in different and imaginative ways, something essential about the Emily Williamson bird protection story.
All entries received many hundreds of votes.
Top, L-R: Eve Shepherd, Hazel Reeves, Clare Abbatt, Laury Dizengremel.
Middle: Jemma Pearson, Anne Shingleton, Graham High, Corrine Streetly.
Bottom: Billie Bond, Christine Charleston, James Dean, Richard Mossman