13 APRIL 2017

  • Gillian Wearing will be the first woman to create a statue for Parliament Square
  • The statue, of Suffragist leader Millicent Fawcett, will be the first female statue in the square when unveiled next year

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, announced today that Turner Prize-winning artist Gillian Wearing has been commissioned to create the statue of suffragist leader Millicent Fawcett in Parliament Square. Gillian will take this milestone project forward with funding from the Government, following the Prime Minister’s announcement of support for the statue earlier this month.

The statue will be both the first of a woman, and the first created by a woman, to stand in Parliament Square. It will be unveiled to coincide with the centenary celebrations of women’s suffrage in the UK.

Caroline Criado-Perez launched her campaign for a statue in Parliament Square in May 2016, with a change.org petition which was signed by almost 85,000 people. The Mayor has backed her campaign and has worked with Caroline to ensure the statue can be located in Parliament Square.

Gillian was selected following a rigorous process undertaken by the Suffrage Statue Commission, which included gallery directors, curators, cultural leaders and campaigners, chaired by Deputy Mayor for Culture and Creative Industries, Justine Simons.

Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said:

“As a proud feminist at City Hall, I’m delighted to announce Gillian Wearing as the artist who will create the first-ever statue of a woman in Parliament Square, right in the heart of British democracy. It’s simply not right that, nearly a century after women’s suffrage, Parliament Square is still a male-only zone and I’m thrilled that this is soon to change, thanks to Caroline’s inspired campaign.

“This will be an historic moment for Parliament Square, and it’s fitting that the statue will be created by a world-class artist of Gillian’s calibre. A Turner Prize winner, life-time Royal Academician and recent nominee of the Human Rights Art Award, Gillian has the insight, passion and creativity to encapsulate how momentous and pivotal the suffrage movement was, as well as bringing across the sheer force and determination of the women who dedicated their lives to the fight for women’s suffrage. I have no doubt Gillian’s talent will do great justice to the movement and Millicent Fawcett’s legacy.”

Writer and activist, Caroline Criado-Perez, said:

“I’m delighted to have the backing of Theresa May, the Mayor of London & Sajid Javid for my campaign to get the first statue of a woman in Parliament Square. Women make up more than half the population – but from looking at our public spaces, you would never know that. Just 2.7 per cent of British statues are of named women, and even these are mostly royals. The square outside Parliament recognises the achievement of great men who have shaped our democracy. But women belong in that story, too. One hundred years after the first women won the right to vote, it’s past time to start including them. It’s also time to have our first statue by a female sculptor in Parliament Square and I’m thrilled that Gillian Wearing is going to be producing this historic artwork.

Artist Gillian Wearing said:

“Millicent Fawcett was an incredible woman and by honouring her in Parliament Square I believe she will continue to inspire generations to come. I for one am truly grateful for her contribution towards securing the vote for women and I am really thrilled to be working on a monument for her.”

Jenny Waldman, Director, 14-18 NOW, said:

“14-18 NOW is delighted to be commissioning a new statue with the Mayor of London and Government as a way to mark this iconic moment in women’s history. 14-18 NOW engages people with the centenary of the First World War through contemporary art; this new statue will be a wonderful way for people to remember the huge impact of the war on women’s lives. We are particularly pleased that the Turner Prize-winning artist, Gillian Wearing, who is among the best-known and most internationally recognised of the recent generation of British artists, will undertake the commission to commemorate Millicent Fawcett and her pioneering role in campaigning for women to have the vote.”

Sam Smethers, Chief Executive of Fawcett Society, said:

“Gillian Wearing is the ideal choice for Millicent Fawcett’s statue. Her contemporary style will ensure the artwork is both relevant and personal.

“We want to thank the Mayor and his team for steering the project to this crucial and exciting stage.”

Justine Simons OBE, Deputy Mayor for Culture and Creative Industries and Director of the Suffrage Statue Commission, said:

“One hundred years ago women advocated, campaigned and fought bravely against a system that denied them their fundamental democratic rights. Honouring their struggle in Parliament Square could not be more appropriate and I’m delighted that we’ve commissioned Gillian to create this pivotal statue.

“Gillian’s proposal stood out in a range of excellent submissions from female artists. It successfully celebrates the leadership of one woman, while recognising the diversity and number of women who made up the suffrage movement. Her idea is a brilliant contemporary response to some of the more traditional components of Parliament Square. Seen from a distance, the subject will be instantly recognisable and those who get close will be rewarded with fascinating detail about the movement. It is a genuine privilege to play a part in celebrating these inspirational women.”

Gillian Wearing’s previous work includes A Real Birmingham Family, a bronze statue which depicted single-mother sisters Roma and Emma Jones and their children, which was unveiled in Birmingham’s Centenary Square in 2014.

The Mayor and the Government will work in partnership to deliver the statue. Plans will be submitted to Westminster City Council shortly, with a view to commencing work on the piece later this year.