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Short-listed designs of a statue for Emily Williamson (1855-1936) to be unveiled to the public

On Thursday 1 July 2021 the final four short-listed designs of a statue for Emily Williamson (1855-1936) will be unveiled to the public, marking a milestone in the campaign to achieve recognition for wildlife activist and RSPB founder Emily Williamson who was born in Lancaster and lived in Manchester.

The unveiling will take place on the centenary of the Plumage Act of 1921, which brought an end to the cruel importation of birds for their feathers following a 50-year fashion for elaborately plumed hats. It will be part of a programme of celebratory events taking place in conjunction with the RSPB in Fletcher Moss Park in Didsbury, in which Emily’s home once stood and from where her campaigning began.

Wednesday 30 June 2021 (6:00pm to 8:30pm), author talk with Tessa Boase, Old Parsonage, Didsbury

Much of the work to shine a light on the achievements of Emily Williamson has been led by historian and author Tessa Boase. It was her research into the beginnings of the RSPB that first identified that Emily Williamson’s name had not been given its rightful place in the history books. So began a quest that led first to the publication of her book looking at the role that Emily Williamson, Etta Lemon and Eliza Philips played in the creation of the RSPB and now a campaign to create a statue for Emily in the grounds of her former home, The Croft in Didsbury’s Fletcher Moss Park.

Join Tessa as she shares the fascinating account of the pioneering founders of the RSPB, the challenges they faced, their campaigning for conservation and how they took on the establishment. The event, which is being organised in partnership with local bookshop EJ Morten, will also see unveiled for the first time individual portraits of the three founders, Emily, Etta and Eliza by artist Clare Abbatt.

Light refreshments will be served in advance of Tessa’s talk, with the opportunity to purchase a signed copy of her book, ‘Etta Lemon: the woman who saved the birds’. The event starts at 6pm, tickets are £7.50 (plus booking fee) and all the booking details are here.

Thursday 1 July 2021 (2:00pm to 6:30pm), unveiling of the bronze maquettes, Fletcher Moss Park, Didsbury

Four shortlisted female sculptors: Clare Abbatt, Billie Bond, Laury Dizengremel and Eve Shepherd have all been working on their final proposed designs of a statue for Emily, which will be unveiled as maquettes (miniature versions of their proposed sculptor design) in a special event to which all are invited on Thursday 1 July.

At 2:00pm there will be a welcome from Beccy Speight, CEO of the RSPB, ahead of each of the sculptors introducing their work before the vote is opened for the public to vote for their favourite. This will be followed by a series of Family Friendly activities organised by the RSPB – ideal for some after school fun!

There’s no need to book for the unveiling event and the activities organised by the RSPB for families are all free to take part in, these will run from 2:00pm to 7:00pm.

Emily Williamson held her first meeting of what would become the RSPB over tea, inviting her friends to join her pledge to ‘Wear No Feathers’ in 1889. In a nod to this historical moment, The Alpine Tea Room, which occupies Emily’s former home The Croft will be serving cream teas.

Cream teas at The Croft will be served throughout the day until 5:00pm. These are priced at £5.25 (which includes scone, jam, clotted cream and tea) and can be pre-booked in advance by emailing

Sunday 4 July 2021 (12noon to 4:00pm), viewing of the maquettes and portraits, Old Parsonage, Didsbury

Throughout the afternoon of Sunday 4 July there will be the opportunity to see the maquettes of Emily Williamson and the portraits of Emily, Etta Lemon and Eliza Philips, with all collectively on public display.

A visit is also the perfect opportunity to view the Old Parsonage gardens in a riot of colour and the beautiful gardens of Fletcher Moss Park, which were created by Emily and her husband. The Alpine Tea Room will also be open until 4:00pm.

Entrance to the Old Parsonage to view the maquettes and portraits is free and no booking is required.

Andrew Simcock, Chair of the Emily Williamson Statue Committee, says, “This series of events form an important milestone in our campaign for Emily Williamson. Manchester is a city of change makers and we want to proudly share Emily’s legacy and use it to inspire future conversations and actions about conservation in our city, region and beyond. A fascinating talk from Tessa Boase is the perfect introduction to the unveiling of the designs of a statue for Emily, marking the day exactly one hundred years ago since the beginning of one of her key achievements.”

Throughout August, and September the Emily Williamson maquettes will tour key RSPB reserves around the country before returning to Manchester Art Gallery where they will go on display in October.