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Seacole statue shortlisted for prestigious public sculpture

MEMORABLE: Mary Seacole statue (Photo credit: MILLER HARE)

THE STATUE of Victorian nurse Mary Seacole, the first to a named black woman in the UK, has been shortlisted for a prestigious award that recognises ‘originality, aesthetic quality and sensitivity to its site’ in public sculpture.

The Marsh Awards 2017 are organised by the Public Monuments and Sculpture Association (PMSA) with the winners to be announced at a ceremony in London on November 8.

Mary’s bronze statue, unveiled in the grounds of St Thomas’ Hospital, London on 30 June 2016, was the result of a twelve-year fundraising appeal which brought together a wide range of communities including health professionals, the military, politicians, corporations and thousands of individuals. It is already a popular London landmark, admired by staff and patients at the hospital as well as visitors from far and wide who want to pay tribute to the nurse who cared for soldiers serving in the Crimean War.

Sculptor Martin Jennings FRBS, who has two pieces of work shortlisted, said: "It’s thrilling to have been shortlisted for the PMSA Marsh Awards. These are the only national awards for public sculpture. Nominations cover any works over the past two years and the expert panel visits each one on site before narrowing them down.

"2016 was a very significant year for me as I was able to install two monuments to high-achieving women (the vast majority of Britain’s statues are of men). To have each of these recognised by the national body, the PMSA, is beyond my expectations.

"Each project I take on is very much a collaboration between myself and the commissioning body so I hope everyone involved with the Mary Seacole Memorial Statue Appeal (MSMSA), now the Mary Seacole Trust (MST), will pat themselves on the back for the shortlisting of the Mary Seacole monument!"

The sculpture represents Mary Seacole marching forward defiantly while behind her figure is a vertical bronze disc, cast from the surface of the ground a few paces from the site where she established the British Hotel in the Crimea more than 150 years ago.

Martin Jennings and a team from the Pangolin Editions foundry travelled to the Crimea in order to locate the site and to ensure that the disc would show Mary in her authentic setting – indeed they discovered shards of glass almost certainly from Mary’s hotel bottle store.

MST Chair Trevor Sterling said he was delighted that the beauty and historical significance of the memorial had been recognised by the PMSA.

"It is a tremendous honour to be shortlisted for this award and the Trust is incredibly proud to be associated with Martin Jennings, undoubtedly one of the UK’s finest sculptors. Martin’s work truly captures Mary’s heart and soul, her drive, her determination and her compassion.

"The work, set in a beautiful garden within the grounds of St Thomas’ Hospital, provides a tranquil spot that is already being enjoyed by huge numbers of patients, staff and visitors to Westminster from all over the UK and the rest of the world. As the first statue of a named black woman in the UK, its recognition by the PMSA could not be timelier."

Martin Jennings’ sculpture Women of Steel also features in the short list, along with seven other pieces of work on display.

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