Breaking the Mould

Temperatures rise as the WoManchester Statue Project approaches a new milestone. The man behind the campaign, Councillor Andrew Simcock, reveals the latest news and gets close to the action in a metal foundry.

The Emmeline Pankhurst Statue Campaign is entering an exciting new phase. As Open Up goes to press, our six competing sculptors, from all over the UK, are about to reveal their designs for a monument to the suffragette leader. Each is hoping to be chosen to create Manchester’s first female statue in over a century.

Six bronze maquettes (preliminary models) were due to be unveiled at the end of February at the Houses of Parliament, with Emmeline’s great grand-daughter, Dr Helen Pankhurst, attending the occasion as guest of honour. From early March, the mini statues are on public display in Manchester Town Hall and will be auctioned off at a fundraising dinner on 9 March 2017 at the Radisson Edwardian Hotel (the former Free Trade Hall) in Manchester. It was in this building, on Peter Street, that the suffragettes first began their campaign.

While the sculptors are interviewed for a final time by the selection committee, the public will be invited to vote online for their own favourite.

Having led the WoManchester campaign since 2014, I’ve been getting increasingly excited about the outcome – not far off, now! I was curious to see the artists at work and to find out first-hand about the process of casting the maquettes in bronze. I was lucky enough to get that chance when I travelled up and down the country to visit three foundries – a brand new experience for me!

My first stop was Hull to visit father and daughter team, Roxy and Stephen Winterburn, who have their own foundry! The most hazardous part of the operation is when the bronze is poured into its casting at 1,150°C.






Once cooled, the team put me to work – suitably protected – knocking off the heat resistant sand. Meanwhile, Roxy and Stephen worked on their portrait of Emmeline, using photos for inspiration.






And here we are with the working model of their idea – not including the yellow wires!

Next was a visit to Leatherhead in Surrey and the slightly bigger operation at Milwyn Casting, where I caught up with Amelia Rowcroft. The final leg of my tour took in Pangolin Editions in Stroud, Gloucestershire, where 160 people are employed in all sorts of casting projects. Sculptor Martin Jennings has worked with Pangolin for over thirty years.

What these visits underlined for me was the vital partnership between sculptor and foundry. Also, why these bronze maquettes cost more than I might have guessed!


Vote for your favourite design at