The Statue Appeal’s primary focus is to fundraise for the statue of Mary Clarke and following the difficulties posed by COVID and lockdown, we plan to redouble our efforts to raise the £35,000 we still need. However, the Appeal’s purposes are broader than just the achievement of a statue.
An important aspect of our purpose has always been to use the commemoration of Mary’s life as an educational tool to raise awareness of the importance of equality and women’s rights, including the right to safety from abuse and violence, of the kind experienced by Mary, during her marriage and subsequent political life. We commemorate Mary, but Mary’s legacy demands we also honour the lives of other women who have died as a result of misogynist violence.
Like others, we were horrified by the terrible death of Sarah Everard and appalled, though not surprised, by emerging information about the numbers of women killed since then. We decided there was a need for wider commemoration, in particular, for women and girls who have died locally.
In Parliament, of recent years, a Member of Parliament has read out the names of women killed during the previous twelve months. Spontaneous local vigils followed Sarah’s death, but here in Brighton and Hove, there have been no formal Council-led commemorations.
We approached the current Mayor Cllr Alan Robins, along with leading councillors of all
parties, to ask them to work together to give much greater priority to this issue. We also asked them to commit to high profile commemoration, each year, as close as possible to the U.N. International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women on 25th November and the U.N. 16 days of Activism to End Violence Against Women and Girls* which follow it. We requested that the U.N.’s designated campaign colour of Orange be worn by councillors and if possible be used to light up civic buildings. We also asked the Mayor to hold a minutes silence for women – and, as he did so, to remember Mary Clarke, who almost certainly sustained her fatal injury during the violence of ‘Black Friday’ on the 18th November 2010 (dying on 25th December of a brain haemorrhage).
On 21st October 2021, a full meeting of Brighton & Hove City Council prepared to move a Notice of Motion which included most of the proposals we had made. That meeting did not proceed because a councillor who was present was found to have tested positive for COVID.
The Notice of Motion will be discussed at the next meeting in December and we look forward to that. However, we are delighted to report that, before the meeting of the 21st October was halted, the Mayor was able to start the meeting with a minute’s silence, while all councillors wore orange ribbons as a gesture of support. Not only that, our replica of ‘Mary’s lamp’ (a model of the lamp planned for the eventual statue donated by our sculptor Denise Dutton) was at the Mayor’s side as he did so, the candle inside flickering softly in remembrance.
We are so great full to the Council and hope this commemoration and associated discussion will be repeated in future years.
* The 16 Days of Activism are part of The UN Secretary-General’s UNiTE by 2030 to End Violence Against Women Campaign (UNiTE campaign), managed by UN Women. As the U.N. Website states it is “a multi-year effort aimed at preventing and eliminating violence against women and girls around the world. It calls on governments, civil society, women’s organisations, young people, the private sector, the media, and the entire UN system to join forces in addressing the global pandemic of violence against women and girls.”