News / 24 Apr 2024

Public sculpture 'Ribbons' launched to champion women of Leeds

A close up of a large steel ribbon featuring the names of the nominated women.

Corton steel ribbons in production. Photograph courtesy of David Wilson at Fereday Cylinder Co Ltd

A close up of a large steel ribbon featuring the names of the nominated women, in an industrial building.

Corton steel ribbons in production. Photograph courtesy of David Wilson at Fereday Cylinder Co Ltd

Sculptor Pippa Hale, wearing black framed glasses and a blue top, sits beneath a model of her work 'Ribbons'. She is looking at the work and smiling.

Pippa Hale

Nearly 400 inspirational Leeds women, voted for by members of the public, 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 social reformer and suffragist, Isabella Ford, former Olympic boxer, Nicola Adams OBE and Leeds West Indian Carnival founder, Gertrude Paul. The sculpture also pays homage to the unsung heroes of the city and those who have dedicated their lives to helping others, such as Tina Suryavansi who runs Homeless Hampers, and Rebekah Wilson who set up the charity Zarach to address child poverty in Leeds. A full list of names included on the sculpture can be read here.

“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."

Pippa Hale, 'Ribbons' artist

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.

"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."

Rachel Reeves MP, Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer

“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.”

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

“Leeds is home. The city’s bold ambitions, proud independent spirit, and vibrant culture have profoundly influenced the person I’ve become. Born, raised, and educated here, Leeds is also where I forged my career in technology. It’s an honour to represent our inclusive Leeds Tech community with this prestigious accolade.”

Natasha Sayce-Zelem, Global Head of Partner Engineering Prime Video, and nominated to be on the sculpture

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.

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