Lady Astor 100 Statue Campaign

Sculpture proposal by Hayley Gibbs

Lady Nancy Astor Public Sculpture, Plymouth Hoe

“This I Believe”

I am so pleased to be able to put my design forward for this commission, a design to honor an incredible woman, a woman who continues to promote Plymouth and the public convocation of the representation and position of women in society and politics today.

This design, traditional in its materials of bronze and stone, speaks to the courage and tenacity of Nancy Astor. Holding its own on the grand expanse of the Hoe in the company of such impressive maritime heroes and memorials. The pose chosen is inspired by the early campaign photographs of Lady Astor canvassing Plymouth communities and speaks to strength and fortitude to stand alone in the House of Commons.

Ideally situated in front of Astor House the ‘one and a half-life’ size bronze cast of Lady Astor will stand on top of a carved limestone plinth which echoes elements of its architectural background. The plinth is in keeping with the conservation area and other towering structures further along the Hoe. However, this design stands the figure a little above head height, closing the gap between Lady Astor and the viewer enabling a greater interaction between the public and the work.

Lady Astor’s often-controversial opinions and famously quick witted quips with Churchill leaves us, at first glance, with a rather stern impression. This perception is perhaps aided by her choice of attire, a kind of armor to combat the challenges she faced as a woman in the political arena.

However, delving deeper into radio interviews and the correspondence at the Plymouth and Devon records office revealed to me a more compassionate side to Lady Astor. Committed to the people of Plymouth, who in return held a great amount of affection and respect for her.

Along with an accurate portrayal of her ‘parliamentary uniform’ I would bring light to these different aspects of her character by sculpting a firm but compelling expression in the portrait and carving her ornate signature across the base of the plinth.

With this public support for Lady Astor in mind, evident from the early nineteen hundred’s through to the public funding raised today it would be essential for me to involve the people of Plymouth as much as possible. Whilst sculpting this piece I would like to engage members of the community in studio visits and workshops.

As way of imprinting Plymouths identity onto the sculpture I would cast their hands each in different positions, creating plaster copies. These forms would then be used as tools to texture and model some of the surface of the statue, particularly effective on the heavier fabric of her clothing. This would result in subtle, in-descript indentations in the bronze creating a sense of community ownership and pride in the work. These workshops would also provide opportunities to open up discussions on topical issues inspired by Lady Astor’s influence. Such as women in leadership, women in politics, pride of place and the power in community.

It is my hope that this design will do justice to Lady Nancy Astor’s legacy and the people she stood for. Providing an uplifting focal point on the west wing of the Hoe which will inspire future generations to stand proud and reach for social change, no matter their gender or background.

Biography

I am an established and passionate sculptor based in south London. Working in clay, bronze and stone to create both figurative and ornamental sculptures. I find particular joy in creating work of social and historical importance. Breathing new life into buildings and monuments through restoration is incredibly rewarding. My real vocation comes in creating entirely new works of art, sparking new ideas and reigniting established
narratives.

After studying sculpture over ten years ago at Brighton University I went on to work for a number of designers and artists. Developing my technique and learning the essentials of mould making, casting, project management and installation. I went on to run my own projects, creating and delivering sculptures and installations for a number of clients across the entertainment and retail industries, in the UK and abroad.

Despite this success I realised I had become separated from the traditional sculpting that I loved and was not fully satisfied by the transient work I was producing. I went on to study in historic carving at City and Guilds London Art School, renowned for their world class training in heritage skills. Here I also became a member of the Queen Elizabeth Scholarship Trust (QEST) whose support and network of artists has been invaluable to my career so far. A number of whom I would call upon to advise me at various stages in this commission.

I now focus my own practice on the human form and drapery, creating dynamic poses and paying particular attention to the weight and fall of fabric. The texture and detailing in my sculpting is innate with the processes I use. Be it the patterned chisel marks in carving stone or the tooling and fingerprints in the clay. The energy of physical contact with the material is always evident.

Combining my industry knowledge with the classical training empowered me to take my career in a new direction. I have since had the honor of creating work for some incredible historic sights. These include carvings for the Crimean War Memorial outside Westminster Abbey, The Old Vic Theatre and an original design for St George’s chapel at Windsor Castle.

Most recently I had the pleasure of sculpting a life size bronze statue of William Shakespeare with Raphael Maklouf, New Inn Broadway Box Office and Hackney Council. This is soon to be unveiled in Shoreditch, marking the site of the original Globe Theatre in London. This was a fantastic project and a real honor to depict such a renowned figure in literary history.

Following this is my proposal, as well as some initial sketches and a potential composition on the Hoe.

This project would also be particularly special for me as I have a close family connection with Plymouth, I hope you enjoy what I have put together!

Kind regards,

Hayley

Materials of final statue

  • Bronze statue, possible reinforcements in left arm and fixing points in the legs
  • Limestone plinth
  • Limestone base with lighting & potential for lettering.
Initial pose development
Initial pose development

 

Thumbnail sketches of plinth composition options
Thumbnail sketches of plinth composition options

 

Final design sketch and position proposal
Final design sketch and position proposal