Back to index of Nerve 18 - Summer 2011

Mosaic of Time

Carrie Reichardt is interviewed about her Mary Bamber statue by John Owen

What made you choose to do a piece about Mary Bamber, a little less known activist in the suffrage movement?
The people that set up the project went to great lengths as to who they wanted to honour, so my choice was one of her or the 1911 Transport Strike. I chose Mary Bamber because the commission was so beautifully thought out; it was her suffrage background, a history that is very rarely taught. They were sexually assaulted by the police; violently beaten up. They went to prison suffering terrible torture that’s not really talked about. There were times when they were setting fires and burning down buildings. They were the militants of militants.
This is the best thing, using history as a tool for the fight today against the cuts. It was only a hundred years ago and women didn’t have the vote. This fight is what it took to get that right, we weren’t just given it. This is what will be required now if we don’t want to be going back to the Victorian age.

Your collaboration was with sculptor Nick Reynolds, how was the painstaking work achieved, with ceramic tiles all over the piece, how was this done? What were the technical processes involved?
Nick is a perfectionist obsessed with the body. We spent ages getting the expression on the face right, like the Old Russian style influence on socialists’ art. He worked with John Schoonraad the top prosthetics guy in the country. He has done special effects on loads of films. We wanted it to be as good as possible. So she looked proud with purpose, and strong. So he created the base, and a collective of us worked together to make the piece.

Liverpool Discovers project installed your piece outside St George’s Hall, the scene of many a radical orator and revolutionary agitator, are you pleased with the place she was set, and do you think a kind of poetic justice has been achieved?
I knew she was going in speaker’s corner, and that’s why we put a speaker in it, so you could speak through her. This was to honour every known suffragette and to become a monument to a beautiful person. We were recreating speaker’s corner again on the old speaker’s corner.

Do you think the women’s movement has anything to learn from the suffrage movement?
It’s not just women who need to learn. I believe people collectively have to come together to resist the cuts, and a lot of direct action will be needed. So we have a lot to learn and that’s why I was excited about doing the piece. Around the bottom of the piece is an historical timeline with a cue to take action today.

The Mary Bamber Statue has now been moved inside St George’s Hall.

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