How a Bronze Statue of Famous Author Could Boost the Local Economy.
With the loss of shoppers to the high street, towns across the UK are realizing that heritage is one of their main assets for attracting new visitors. Literary tourism tends to bring in visitors from both a higher socio-economic background and from outside the area. Thousands of people attended the unveiling of the Millicent Fawcett statue in Parliament Square and recent events have shown how important it is to celebrate diversity in our public spaces.
In the current climate when the UK’s relationship to statues and who we – quite literally – want to put on a pedestal is being scrutinized more than ever, local charity Aurora Metro Arts and Media is increasing efforts to honour Virginia Woolf with a life-size bronze statue on Richmond Riverside.
The aims of the project are to:
- Create a lasting tribute to a former Richmond resident and world-renowned feminist and literary figure.
- Educate and engage the local community about local heritage and the arts.
- Culturally enrich a historic part of Richmond with a beautiful interactive artwork and attract visitors during winter and summer. Heritage already attracts over 4 million visitors to Richmond each year. The statue will be an extra draw as Woolf has fans worldwide. Due to the houses Woolf lived in or stayed in, both Richmond and Twickenham are already part of the Woolf Literary Tour
- Redress the imbalance in public statuary whereby there are no women of achievement honoured in the borough, providing positive role models for women and girls.
- Create public recognition of a pioneer for women’s rights and help to raise awareness of LGBTQ and mental health issues by telling her life story.
- Publicise Richmond widely in London, the UK and internationally through the consequent social media created by visitors to the statue. This on-going publicity will be of considerable value to the borough far greater than the initial cost of the statue. For example, the value of free publicity generated by the ‘Fearless Girl’ statue in Wall Street is estimated at $7.4million and the recent celebrations of Jane Austen’s bicentenary are believed to have brought £21million in revenue to Hampshire:
It’s estimated that there are 16 times as many monuments to men nationwide, and fewer than 5% of female statues are of real, historical, non-royal women. In London specifically, over 90% of the statues commemorate men. It’s time to celebrate a hugely important figure of our literary history right here in Richmond.
Virginia Woolf and Richmond
Woolf lived in Richmond 1914 – 1924. She was a renowned pioneer of Modernist Literature, a feminist and a LGBTQ icon and had a well-documented battle with mental health.
Her time in Richmond was rich and varied, having established the Hogarth Press with her husband Leonard from their dining room at Hogarth House in Paradise Road and lived there through the First World War. This was an important time in Woolf’s life, and an important part of Richmond’s history. Woolf’s letters and diaries at the time mention her daily habits of walking her dog along the Thames and her love of her pretty home – Hogarth House – which was recognized with a blue plaque in 1976.
Recently named an icon of the 20th Century by the BBC, it’s hard to believe that this world-famous writer and champion of women’s rights has yet to be honoured with a full-size statue in the UK.
The proposed statue of a seated Virginia Woolf has been designed by award-winning sculptor Laury Dizengremel.
Fundraising for the Statue
Having already raised over £11,000 of the £50,000 target, the aim of having a statue of the famous author beside the Thames continues to gain momentum, after receiving planning permission from Richmond Council. A public consultation by the council was 83% in favour of the project.
Local residents and businesses are being asked to actively support the fundraising campaign by donating directly or through buying a copy of a new book published in July entitled The Women Writers Handbook, 20% of profits will be donated towards the statue fundraising campaign.
The new book brings together several literary luminaries in support of the statue project, including Richmond authors Anne Sebba and Claire Tomalin. The book features over 30 writers including A.S. Byatt, Philippa Gregory, Kit de Waal, Sarah Waters as well as the great-niece of Virginia – Emma Woolf. To order a copy email Aurora Metro Arts
There are also packages for business sponsorship so that businesses can have their company name engraved on the back of the bench in perpetuity. Please donate whatever you can to the statue campaign, and spread the word via the Virgin Money Giving site and Twitter and Facebook
Meena Bond of Richmond Council said:
“Culture improves the quality of our lives. It builds a sense of identity and pride in our communities: promotes well-being, enriches learning (particularly for children and young people) and contributes to our economy.”
Further projects in relation to the statue of Virginia Woolf are envisaged in 2021, subject to successful funding.