Inspirational women feature in new city sculpture

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Inspirational West Leeds Leeds women are among those celebrated in a new sculpture at the heart of the city’s cultural quarter. 

Created by artist, Pippa Hale, ‘Ribbons’ nearly 400 women from across the city will be celebrated on the new public sculpture at the top of the gardens between Leeds City College’s Quarry Hill campus and Leeds Playhouse at the gateway to the SOYO development at Quarry Hill, from July.

The women have all been nominated by members of the public.

Developed by Leeds West MP Rachel Reeves, and led by Leeds Arts University in partnership with Leeds City Council and Leeds City College, the project aims to celebrate women past and present who have contributed to the city.

The sculpture is comprised of five corten steel ribbons each carrying the names of nominated Leeds women.

As they rise up out of the ground they become intertwined, tied together over space and time in a celebration of womanhood that is embedded into the fabric of the city. The structure appears to swirl and flutter, creating flowing patterns that dance and contrast with the geometry of the surrounding buildings at Quarry Hill.

Pippa Hale.

Artist Pippa Hale, who also designed the Bridge Sculpture at Belgrave Retail Park in Stanningley, said: “Reading through the nominations, I have been humbled by their stories and moved by their incredible journeys: from women who have broken glass ceilings and overcome cultural, social, economic and physical barriers to rise to the top of their professions, to those who fly beneath the radar and whose contribution is neither seen nor recognised publicly.

“‘Ribbons’ is a massive thank you to all of them whose love, friendship, commitment, passion and dedication impact our lives every day.”

Leeds West MP Rachel Reeves said: “I am so proud to be part of this amazing project. This sculpture is a chance to honour inspiring women from all walks of life, and celebrate the achievements of the many women who have made Leeds the wonderful city it is today.

“After launching this project several years ago, it’s incredibly exciting to be that much closer to seeing Pippa’s amazing vision come to life. It will be wonderful to see the names of those individual struggles and accomplishments represented in this way, for them to stand as an example of inclusion and progress for future generations.”

Alongside well-known names such as Armley’s Barbara Taylor-Bradford, the sculpture also pays homage to the unsung heroes of the city and those who have dedicated their lives to helping others.

Women who live or work in West Leeds who have been included in the list include:

  • The late Denise Atkinson MBE, who represented Bramley as a councillor over four decades.
  • Burley singer Corinne Bailey-Rae.
  • Irene Bashan, an inspirational teacher and Headteacher at Fairfield infants Farsley (1980s).
  • Emma Bearman, of Pudsey, is the founder of Culture Vulture blog and Playful Anywhere, which promotes play for everybody, regardless of age, background or wealth.
  • Lisa Farrar dedicates her time keeping the streets of Pudsey.
  • Melanie Brown, singer
  • Margaret Cliff (1923-1993), former County Councillor for Bramley and Stanningley.
  • Violet Mary Crowther (1884 – 1969) was a pioneering museum curator at the Abbey House Museum in Kirkstall for more than two decades retiring in 1949.
  • Jane Earnshaw, who ran the I Love West Leeds Festival.
  • Lorraine Fearnley works at Crawshaw Academy supporting school children and six form pupils with severe learning difficulties and disabilities.
  • Mary Gawthorpe (1881 – 1973) Bramley socialist and suffragette.
  • Norah Gibson, founder of West Leeds Debt Forum in 2004. Norah also holds various church positions including Secretary of Churches Together LS13 and establishing interfaith work resulting in the Lights for Leeds events at Kirkstall Abbey.
  • Jayne Greensill is the founder of Jayne’s Joggers and chairperson of Pudsey Runners.
  • Diane Harkness is an asset to her community, especially in her support for Stanningley Albion Junior football club.
  • Ailith Harley-Roberts, co-founder and Service Manager at Sunshine and Smiles – Leeds Down Syndrome Network. Swimming sessions are held at Bramley Baths.
  • Jan Holdstock (1940-2017) was a musician, a gifted lyricist and a noted composer of music for young people. She was a senior lecturer in music, at first at the James Graham College in Farnley, and later at Beckett Park.
  • Jean Hollings is a retired nurse and community health visitor. Event director for Bramley parkrun and regular volunteer at charity sporting events in the district.
  • Sue Ingle is currently a consultant for Stanningley Slimming World Group. Sue also organises an annual event on Boxing Day for 30 elderly and isolated people.
  • Olive Jakusz (1919-1999), Headteacher Burley St Matthias Infants where she worked for 14 years, retiring in 1979. Olive taught thousands of inner-city Leeds children in a career spanning 40 years.
  • Sue Jennings is Director at Left Bank Leeds and has been a resident in Leeds her entire life.
  • Manjit Kaur, founder of Manjit’s Kitchen, a food truck that sold vegetarian Indian food, and moved to Kirkgate Market in 2016. She currently runs a restaurant on Kirkstall Road.
  • Alison Lowe is a British Labour politician. She was the first black woman Leeds city councillor, serving Armley Ward from 1990 to 2019.
  • Vicky Milner, runs Stanningley Albion under 13’s football. Sue also fundraises and contributes greatly to the community.
  • Lucy Moore, Project Curator at Leeds Museums and Galleries with a passion for uplifting and ensuring the voices of marginalised communities have their stories told. 
  • Kate Moree is co-founder of Seagulls Reuse, an environmental social enterprise on Kirkstall Road.
  • Angela Morely (1924-2009) was a Kirkstall Road-born composer, she was the first openly transgender woman to be nominated for an Oscar and won three Emmy awards for her work in music arrangement.
  • Dawn Newsome is CEO of Armley Helping Hands, an organisation supporting older people.
  • Alice Nutter (born Anne Holden, 1962) is a musician, singer-songwriter, activist and playwright. Founding member of Armley rock band, Chumbawumba.
  • Pat Oddy (1933-2018), founder member and Lifetime President for Hawksworth Older People’s Support. She was Lady Mayoress, set up community associations, worked as a neighbourhood warden and served on school committees in the local area.
  • Janet Page, a member of Leeds Amateur Operatic Society and working backstage utilising her skills as a professional barber. She is a member of Farsley in Bloom and a foodbank volunteer.
  • Cat Pearon is co-founder of Seagulls Reuse, an environmental social enterprise off Kirkstall Road.
  • Barbara Ratcliffe (1927 – 2003) One of the few lady publicans working with Joshua Tetley & Son Ltd. Barbara forged her way in a male dominated environment and managed several pubs in the city including The Oddfellows (Melbourne Pubs) in Kirkstall and Tetley’s flagship pub, The Ancestor (on Armley Ridge Road, Leeds) in the 1960s. 
  • Rachel Reeves (born 1979) is Labour MP for Leeds West and Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer.
  • Andrea Selkirk works as a Sessional Youth Worker at Cardigan Centre, which facilitates social welfare, recreation, education and economic regeneration.
  • Linda Stansbie was the teacher in residence at Leeds Industrial Museum at Armley Mills for nearly 20 years.
  • Barbara Taylor Bradford OBE (born 1933 in Armley) is a best-selling author.

 A full list of names included on the sculpture can be read here.

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