South Leeds women among those recognised on new sculpture

Nearly 400 inspirational Leeds women, voted for by members of the public and many connected to South Leeds, are being celebrated with a new sculpture in the heart of the city’s cultural quarter.

Created by artist, Pippa Hale, ‘Ribbons’ will be located 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 2024.

Developed by local MP and Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rachel Reeves, and led by Leeds Arts University in partnership with Leeds City Council and Leeds City College (member of Luminate Education Group), the project aims to celebrate women, past and present, who have contributed to the city.

Among the names are band leader Ivy Benson and the first woman to lead the council, Judith Blake. The sculpture also pays homage to the unsung heroes of the city and those who have dedicated their lives to helping others, such as Lynn Bailey, founder of Better Action for Families, which supports people with learning disabilities and their families; and Carry Franklin, who taught at Clapgate Primary School and founded Leeds Little Libraries.

Women connected to South Leeds on the scupture include:

  • Lynn Bailey, founder of Better Action For Families
  • Ivy Benson, women’s band leader, born in Holbeck
  • Judith Blake, former Hunslet and Middleton councillor and leader of Leeds City Council
  • Jan Burkhardt, founder of DAZL (Dance Action Zone Leeds)
  • Wendy Doyle, Manager of Leeds South & West Foodbank
  • Carry Franklin, teacher at Clapgate Primary School and founder of Leeds Little Libraries
  • Al Garthwaite, women’s rights activist, councillor and current Lord Mayor of Leeds
  • Emily Harvey, co-founder of Skipko arts organisation based in Holbeck
  • Pat McGeever, CEO Health For All, based in Middleton
  • Lucy Moore, Project Curator at Leeds Museums and Galleries
  • Edith Pechey, one of the first female doctors in the UK, established a dispensary for women and children in Mill Street, Holbeck
  • Pat Regan, campaigner against gun crime after her son was murdered
  • Christine Smart, Community Development Manager for Cottingley Community Project (Centre) and an advocate for autism support … and Chair of South Leeds Life
  • Tamsin Spain, co-founder of Skipko arts organisation based in Holbeck
  • Laura Wellington, Designer and co-owner of Duke Studios
  • Lucy Wheeler, Operations Leader at Skelton Grange Environment Centre
  • Maureen Woods, ran the Sunday School at West Grange Church in Belle Isle

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

Pat McGeever commented:

“Gosh what a surprise – I had no idea ! But I am delighted and honoured to be included in this beautiful tribute to the amazing women of Leeds. To be honest, any accolade needs to go to our charity, Health for All, which has given me the opportunity to be of service to others, making often hidden contributions to improving people’s wellbeing and communities.”

Christine Smart said:

“I am extremely grateful to be one of the women that will be featured on this sculpture. I don’t like to brag and take credit for nothing, but I’m touched and gobsmacked I’ve been selected.”

Lynn Bailey said:

“I’m so honoured to be chosen to have my name on the sculpture with all the amazing inspirational women. It’s really wonderful to represent South Leeds with other strong committed women like Pat and Christine. This will also lift the spirits for all the people who have supported BAFF and who attend BAFF groups at a time when we all need something to celebrate.”

Wendy Doyle said:

“I am amazed to be nominated for this ribbon but I couldn’t have done any of what I have done, without the  support of my family and hard work of all the volunteers past and present who have been with us over the years.”

Artist Pippa Hale

‘Ribbons’ artist, Pippa Hale, commented:

“I am truly honoured to be making a sculpture that represents the women of Leeds for the very first time. 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.”

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.

A Leeds City Council review of statues in response to Black Lives Matters, carried out by Alison Lowe OBE and published in 2020, highlighted the lack of diversity in public sculpture in Leeds and included ‘Ribbons’ in an action plan to address this issue. ‘Ribbons’ will follow on from Yinka Shonibare’s ‘Hibiscus Rising’ which was unveiled during our Year of Culture, Leeds 2023.

Rachel Reeves MP, Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer, 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.”

Councillor Debra Coupar, Leeds City Council’s deputy leader and executive member for resource, said:

“This stunning sculpture will be a striking and poignant new addition to the city’s cultural landscape as well as a fitting tribute to some of the remarkable women who have helped shape the city. We’re proud to have worked with our partners at Leeds Arts University and Leeds City College/Luminate to bring this vision to life. The sheer diversity of these women’s stories is testament to the impact women have had on all aspects of life in Leeds, and we hope this beautiful artwork will serve as a lasting monument to their legacies and as an inspiration for women and girls in the future.”

The project is supported by LeedsBID, Caddick Developments, Leeds Civic Trust, the Liz and Terry Bramall Foundation, the Henry Moore Foundation and the Leeds Playhouse.


This post is based on a press release issued by Leeds Arts University

Photo: Corton steel ribbons in production.  Credit: David Wilson at Fereday Cylinder Co Ltd


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