Updated: Friday, 13th September 2019 @ 2:25pm

Face off: Woollen masks used in guerilla campaign to deface Manchester statues... and mark women's achievements

Face off: Woollen masks used in guerilla campaign to deface Manchester statues... and mark women's achievements

| By Helen Le Caplain

Crocheting: Meryl Streep, Madonna and Cher are all allegedly at it.

Like knitting, crocheting is one of those skills that has crept into the limelight over the years, with numerous stars reportedly taking time out in between shoots to go to their trailers and pick up a crochet hook and yarn.

And now instead of just being used to create granny squares, doilies and blankets this traditional craft is being used to celebrate Mancunian women in the Stature project. 

A suffragette, a marathon swimmer and gay rights campaigners are just some of the people whose woolly likeness is being superimposed over male municipal statues in Manchester Town Hall to celebrate their achievements.

Household names such as suffragette Sylvia Pankhurst and novelist Elizabeth Gaskell have been immortalised in cotton as part of the along with 101-year-old mathematician, politician and gay rights advocate Dame Kathleen Ollerenshaw.

Repertory theatre pioneer Annie Horniman, anti-racism campaigner Louise da-Cocodia MBE, swimmer Ethel ‘Sunny’ Lowry, scientist Kathleen Mary Drew-Baker and social justice campaigner Esther Roper also join the crocheted mask line-up.


AUTHOR EXTRAORDINAIRE: Elizabeth Gaskell

Arts, crafts and heritage initiative Warp & Weft is the brains behind the installation and revealed to MM that the project had taken a year to organise.

“It’s been a long time in the planning!” laughed 39-year-old exhibition curator Jenny White.

“It started last spring and I was really inspired by all of the activism going on. It was great to see women on bank notes and the No More Page 3 Campaign and banning lad mags from the supermarket as this is how we are represented in the public realm.”

Jenny and fellow Warp & Weft member crochet queen Helen Davies walked around the city hunting for potential exhibition sites.

They peeked inside the iconic neo-gothic Town Hall, spotted the imposing line-up of male statues lining the corridors and realised they had found their venue.

“We had already talked about statues and found it made sense to hold it there as they’re not exposed to the elements and the weather.

“We chatted to people at the Town Hall and had to wait on the councillors’ permission which we got.”

Of 640 listed statues throughout the UK just 15% are of women and of these most represent monarchs or mythological characters throughout history.  


MULTI-COLOURED MASKS: Four inspiring Manchester women

In an attempt to smash this gender inequality Helen carefully crocheted the eight faces to celebrate these women’s astonishing achievements.

Jenny explained that the eight were chosen from a variety of backgrounds to ensure a variety of skillsets were recognised.

She said: “We chose diverse representation not just people from one field but people who have had success in different backgrounds – from posh to working class.

“It’s been really interesting making connections with people. Louise da-Cocodia only just passed away a few years ago and her legacy still lives on here in Manchester.

“People have been really excited about her mask, especially people from the housing association she worked with.

 “Equally the Royal Northern College were excited to hear about us celebrating Dame Kathleen Ollerenshaw as she helped set them up.”

The exhibition, which only launched yesterday, has already garnered interest from people working in the town hall who have seen the masks and read up about each woman and their contribution to society.

The multi-coloured masks not only add a welcome splash of colour to the town hall but also gives an insight into each women’s success.


WORKING CLASS WARRIOR: Esther Roper

Ethel ‘Sunny’ Lowry ate a whopping 40 eggs a week to ensure she had enough energy for her mammoth swims and that, along with her ‘Sunny’ moniker inspired Helen to use a lot of yellow in her mask.

Dr Kathleen Drew-Baker’s pioneering work helped save the Japanese sushi industry due to her seaweed research, and in recognition of this the colours in her mask are predominantly green.

Jenny said: “It feels so exciting and a kind of release to be celebrating some amazing women.

“We thought of it last year and it was a long time planning, it’s so exciting that so many people are enthusiastic too.”

The two-week exhibition, which is being hosted to celebrate LGBT History Month and International Women’s Day, will be at Manchester Town Hall until March 9.

For more information about the exhibition visit http://wearewarpandweft.wordpress.com/