Public sculpture Ribbons launched to champion women of Leeds

Posted: April 24, 2024

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 our Quarry Hill campus and Leeds Playhouse at the gateway to the SOYO development 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, the project aims to celebrate women, past and present, who have contributed to the city.  
Among the names are a number of current and former staff members, including Principal of Quarry Hill campus, Suzanne Gallagher, and Luminate Education Group’s Vice Principal for Adult Learning, Ann Marie Spry.

Together, Suzanne and Ann-Marie have acquired almost 60 years experience in education, and are both passionately committed to inclusion and social mobility for students of all backgrounds.

Also named is Megan Cowan, who has spent her life working to provide opportunities in her community, Megan worked in further education for many years, initially at Keighley College and then at Leeds City College.

Actress and teacher Allyson Lee has also earned her place on the sculpture. She was instrumental in writing and managing the full-time performing arts courses Thomas Danby College, which became part of Leeds City College in 2009.
Pippa Hale, said: “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.” 

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. 

Rachel Reeves MP, Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer, added: “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.” 

Councillor Debra Coupar, Leeds City Council’s deputy leader and executive member for resources said: “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.” 

Natasha Sayce-Zelem, Global Head of Partner Engineering Prime Video, and nominated to be on the sculpture, said: “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.” 

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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