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Statue of 'great Black Briton’ Mary Seacole unveiled today

UNVEILING: Mary Seacole statue in London

A STATUE honouring heroine of the Crimean War, Mary Seacole, is to be unveiled today (June 30) in the garden of St Thomas’ Hospital in London.

It will be the first statue in the UK dedicated to a named black woman.

More than 300 guests - including Lance Corporal Johnson Beharry VC; Simon Stevens, Chief Executive, NHS England; England’s Chief Nursing Officer Jane Cummings; Len McCluskey, General Secretary, Unite; Diane Abbott MP; and Commonwealth Secretary General Baroness Scotland, will attend the official unveiling in celebration of the Jamaican-born nurse who cared for wounded British soldiers during the Crimean War.

The statue will be unveiled by Baroness Floella Benjamin OBE, Deputy Lieutenant of Greater London.

Attendees will be addressed by a number of high-profile speakers – including Sir Hugh Taylor, Chairman, Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust; Lord Soley, Chairman, Mary Seacole Memorial Statue Appeal; and Diedre Mills, Acting Jamaican High Commissioner- who will mark the contribution Mary Seacole and other black and minority ethnic people have made to Britain throughout history.

The unveiling of the statue comes after 12 years of campaigning by the Mary Seacole Memorial Statue Appeal to raise the necessary funds for the iconic bronze statue created by sculptor Martin Jennings.

More than £500,000 was raised through donations from thousands of individual supporters as well as a number of larger donors.

In November last year Chancellor George Osborne announced that £240,000 of LIBOR banking fines would be donated to the appeal to pay for the installation.

An exhibition about the life and times of Mary Seacole, and the creation of the statue, will be open to the public from 2-5pm on today (June 30) and from 9am-5pm on Friday (July 1).

Lord Clive Soley, Chair of the Mary Seacole Memorial Statue Appeal, said: “After 12 years of campaigning, we are proud to finally grant Mary Seacole the acknowledgement she deserves for her selfless support of British soldiers and sailors.

“We are delighted to be unveiling the statue today at St Thomas’ Hospital and would like to thank everyone who has supported the appeal, including the many nurses, schools and army units who were inspired to donate funds for the statue. We are also very grateful to the Chancellor who made this possible with a donation of £240,000 for the installation of the statue.”

Baroness Patricia Scotland QC, Commonwealth Secretary-General, added, “As a black woman she [Mary Seacole] defied the expectations of her times and it is right that her story continues to be told today as a reminder that one person can make a difference in the world.”

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