Where will the statue go?
In Fletcher Moss Park, Didsbury – Emily’s home, her garden and her inspiration.
We intend to put Emily Williamson's name back on the map, by making her garden a place of pilgrimage not only for RSPB members, but for budding environmental activists, eco-feminists and young people in search of inspiring role models.
A statue of Emily Williamson will give a focal point to celebrating her legacy, showing that one person can make a world of difference.
In 2019, Fletcher Moss Park won a ‘UK’s Best Loved Park’ award from Fields in Trust. With its education centre, family nature activities and buzzing Alpine Café, it has become a destination park. But it's also a place of quiet and contemplation within a busy city.
It has not yet been decided exactly where the statue will be sited. On the Alpine terrace, by the café? Emerging from Mediterranean plants, like a living human being?
You tell us. We want to hear your thoughts.
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WHO WE ARE
Tessa is a Sussex-based journalist and social historian, whose 2018 book, Mrs Pankhurst’s Purple Feather, uncovered the story of the women who founded the RSPB. ‘When I started researching the RSPB’s surprising eco-feminist roots it was very difficult to discover anything about Emily Williamson. Finding her photograph, via her great nephew Sir Patrick Bateson, was a revelation. When you have a face, you have a personality — and then you have a story. Without this image, there would be no statue campaign.’
Andrew was responsible for instigating and running the high-profile campaign to bring a statue of Emmeline Pankhurst to the centre of Manchester (pictured below), a competition won by sculptor Hazel Reeves. A Manchester City Councillor who has represented Didsbury East since 2011, he’s a strong believer in the power of community. ‘One of the most successful elements of The Emmeline Pankhurst campaign was the public engagement in choosing the design. With this new project we hope that thousands of members of the RSPB and other members of the public will give us their views.’
Melissa Bateson is a Professor of Ethology at Newcastle University with a specialism in starling behaviour.
She is also Emily Williamson’s great, great niece.
'It was an extraordinary coincidence for me to discover that I’m descended from the woman who founded the RSPB, as I have loved birds since I was a small child. As a woman involved in the scientific study of birds, I feel a very strong connection with Emily and am hugely proud of what she managed to achieve and the legacy she has left.’
Melissa will be unveiling the Emily Williamson statue in April 2023.
Beccy Speight joined the RSPB as its new CEO in 2019 with the rallying cry: ‘Let’s knuckle down and make the difference we need to make, together. If not now, then when? If not us, then who?'
In October 2019 Tessa Boase sent her a limited edition Emily Williamson mug… and asked if the RSPB might support a statue campaign. ‘Marvellous idea,’ Beccy replied, via a DM Tweet. She’s confident that this commemorative statue 'will inspire a new generation willing to protect nature and revive our world.'
Alan Hill is a retired Manchester Comprehensive head teacher who helped set up the Friends of Fletcher Moss Park in 2006 to encourage active volunteering in the gardens. ‘I'm keen on promoting habitats for wildlife, and that’s now a significant part of our activities – looking after our birds, bees, butterflies, insects, and small mammals.’
Alan is also the man behind the 2018 crowd-funding campaign for an Emily Williamson plaque on The Croft. 'She lived here for 30 years, but so few people know about her. And now there's a statue campaign – brilliant!’
BBC wildlife presenter Gillian Burke has a background in biology and natural history – which fits with Emily's maternal family, the Batesons. 'I'm a storyteller,' she says. 'I love championing the outcasts, the misunderstood, the overlooked, the unseen and unheard. Whether it's in the natural or human world, I am fascinated with the universal themes of struggle and loss, defeat and victory, endurance and resilience, the light and shade of being alive. This is where my passion for science and storytelling reside.' Gillian lives in the wilds of Cornwall with her family.
Abby Robinson has been visiting Fletcher Moss Park since she was a child.
The South Manchester born TV journalist believes in the power of birds 'to inject a little magic and hope when all seems bleak. Emily Williamson fought for those winged creatures when so many saw them as fashion accessories and nothing more. She banged the drum when it simply was not fashionable to do so. She not only recognised their beauty and their charm, but their right to life, and now she deserves our recognition, too.The names of great men ring far and wide; but for women, it’s a different story. This project is aiming to put right those ancient wrongs by ensuring that Emily’s legacy is known up and down the land.’
Amanda Wallace is deputy director of Manchester Art Gallery.
We're grateful to have her unique perspective on the statue selection committee, reminding us that this bronze of Emily Williamson must have longevity as well as contemporary appeal and artistic merit. Amanda can often be found in Fletcher Moss Park walking her whippet and Manchester terrier.