Known as the woman who saved a million birds, the famous Victorian Didsburyite Emily Williamson is widely considered to be one of the outstanding eco-pioneers of her day.
Now, she is set to be honoured with a new festival at Manchester Art Gallery – culminating in the announcement of the winning design of a statue for Emily.
Emily founded what would become the RSPB from her home in Didsbury’s Fletcher Moss Park in 1889 by inviting her friends to tea and asking them to sign a pledge to ‘Wear No Feathers’.
That one pledge ricocheted through the next century, spawning campaigns and movements that changed the face of UK conservation.
A statue of Emily in the grounds of her former home is one of the ways of giving her the recognition that she deserves and it’s hoped that her legacy will be used to inspire a new generation of nature activists.
As COP26 looms and promises are made regarding action on climate change, the activist and RSPB founder’s campaigning legacy will be celebrated with a dedicated festival.
The event, which runs from. 12 to 14 November, will also showcase local stories of resistance, resilience and hope in the world of conservation today.
The festival will welcome some of Manchester’s most dynamic change-makers, exploring the links between conservation, campaigning, science, and art at a pivotal moment for humanity.
Of the 24 speakers scheduled to appear, 23 will be women – shining a spotlight on some key female players in the conservation world.
Speakers confirmed so far include RSPB CEO Beccy Speight; the British Ornithologists’ Union President Juliet Vickery; campaigner and Springwatch presenter Megan McCubbin; and Emily Williamson’s descendent, bird scientist Professor Melissa Bateson.
The living link between Emily’s history and her eco-campaigning legacy will also be examined in a range of panel debates that will look at Victorian Manchester’s greenness and the city’s changing relationship with the natural world today; campaigning tactics across the centuries; the fashion industry vs environmentalists; and the link between nature and mental health.
The festival will culminate in the announcement of the winning design of a statue for Emily, which members of the public have been voting for in their thousands.
The maquettes (miniature statues) of the four shortlisted designs will be on display at Manchester Art Gallery from Saturday 30 October until Sunday 14 Novemberand with voting open until 12 pm on Sunday 14 November.
Festival founder, social historian and author Tessa Boase, who uncovered Emily’s story and photograph while researching her book on the RSPB’s origins, says:
“Emily Williamson understood the value, magnificence and significance of nature, especially birds. She stood firm and fought against the powerful worldwide ‘murderous millinery’ trade – and she won. This festival celebrates her achievement and remarkable legacy, showcasing some exceptional women fighting for nature here in Manchester today.”
Emily Williamson founded the (R)SPB, now the UK’s largest conservation charity, in 1889. In 1891 she teamed up with two other eco pioneers to take it to the next level: Etta Lemon and Eliza Phillips of Croydon.
None of these women has been remembered by history.
As Tessa Boase explains:
“The first thing that struck me when I visited RSPB headquarters at The Lodge, Sandy, was the male portraits looming down all round the entrance hall.
“Where were the female founders? After unearthing their photographs, I commissioned these drawings from nature-lover and artist Clare Abbatt in the hope that, one day, they might hang in The Lodge and redress the gender balance.”
Emily’s story shows us that one voice can make a difference. With 15% of birds in Britain now facing extinction, her legacy is more crucial than ever.
The large drawings of Emily, Etta and Eliza will feature alongside the shortlisted designs of a statue for Emily Williamson. This will be the first time that the portraits have gone on public display.
Manchester Art Gallery is open Wednesday to Sunday, 10 am to 5 pm. For further information on the Emily Williamson Festival and the Emily Williamson Statue Campaign visit the dedicated website here
Feature image – David Dixon via Commons Wikimedia / Wikipedia
A Salford man is running 365km in a heartwarming marathon challenge on behalf of The Christie
A man from Salford is taking on the extraordinary challenge of running 365km over the course of 365 days and eight marathons, all on behalf of The Christie.
Approaching his 36th birthday, Connor Robinson from Worsley had always had a huge desire to do something positive in his life and after his best friend suffered a loss in the family, he was determined to help in any way he could.
With that in mind, the Salfordian decided to set himself the challenge of running 365km in 365 days across the span of eight and a half marathons around Europe to raise money for The Christie Charity.
The initial inspiration for this challenge came from Connor’s best friend Jack Prady, whose mum Tracy was treated at The Christie Hospital here in Manchester and sadly died of bowel cancer in April 2020.
Jack went on to set up the TP23 Foundation in memory of her and ran an incredible 252 miles, raising more than £30,000 for the beloved local charity and cancer treatment facility.
Inspired by his best mate’s accomplishment, Connor felt that he wanted to “do his bit” and help contribute to the fantastic fundraising that Jack had done. And it’s that classic thing, isn’t it? If your mate does something impressive, you can’t help but want to match.
That being said, Robinson set himself the huge goal of taking on not just one marathon but eight — plus an extra half-marathon for good measure — all around Europe to complete the set.
Having never been a runner, the property director knew that completing even one marathon would be a challenge for him, but seeing what his friend Jack had already achieved for such a great cause and in his mother’s memory was more than enough to spur Connor on.
The two local lads putting in the graft.
Then, just 10 weeks into his 18-week training programme on 10 January this year, Connor’s own dad, Wayne Robinson, was also sadly diagnosed with a type of throat cancer.
A non-smoker and drinker, Wayne’s cancer was unfortunately caused by the HPV virus. Having now started treatment at The Christie, receiving daily radiotherapy and chemotherapy, Connor has all the more motivation to take on the challenge.
“Whilst I am running this challenge in Jack’s mum Tracy’s memory, it is also for every single person who’s ever needed the remarkable services provided by The Christie – especially my dad”, explained Connor. “When starting this challenge, I wanted to take it across Europe and spread the name and awareness of The Christie not just throughout the North West but the whole of the UK and beyond!
“There’s probably no other family I have been closer to over the last 15+ years than the Pradys and I have seen first-hand the immediate and long-lasting impact cancer has on loved ones, but also how much needed and invaluable the treatment and care received by The Christie was.”
Connor’s friends and family will be following his journey and supporting him along the way and, like a best mate would, Jack has even vowed to run every marathon with him.
Their first marathon together will be on Sunday, 10 March in Barcelona and Connor will be documenting their journey on Instagram, @letsrunwithconnor.
So far, Connor has raised over £3,000 just through his training runs with Jack, which is 90% of the initial target of £3600. Their eight marathons will take place in Barcelona, right here in Manchester this April; Leeds, Edinburgh, Chester, Dublin, Athens and Valencia, with the final half marathon still to be decided.
You can donate to Connor 365km in 365 days marathon fundraiser HERE and wish you all the best of luck, lads — go and smash it!
These two aren’t the only Greater Mancunians who are taking on multiple marathons on behalf of the vital NHS Foundation Trust this year.
Outdated Manchester building could become new ‘innovation hub’ as part of £1.7bn transformation plans
An outdated Manchester building could be “reactivated” into a brand-new innovation hub as part of ambitious transformation plans.
The Renold Building – which dates back to 1962, and was the first of its kind UK at the time – will take on a new lease of life, and become a home for “forward-thinking entrepreneurs and SMEs” to develop new ideas and solutions that will help tackle some of the world’s biggest challenges.
ID Manchester is an “ambitious” plan to transform the University’s former North Campus into a “welcoming and accessible” new £1.7 billion innovation district.
We’re happy to share plans for ID Manchester's innovation hub, reactivating the Renold Building as a home for science and tech start-ups. With coworking, office & community event spaces, it will be central to the #IDManchester ecosystem.
According to UoM, the new vision for the Renold Building will celebrate its history as an educational hub by hosting the next wave of science and technology innovators, and building an inclusive and purpose-driven community.
The city centre building will provide a range of coworking, office, and meeting facilities to accommodate and support collaboration between researchers, entrepreneurs, businesses, and partner organisations.
On top of this, new events and exhibition spaces – including lecture theatres, and a community cafe – will be accessible to local businesses, community groups, and arts and culture organisations as part of the project, so that they have the chance to host and participate in a wide range of engaging events and activities.
Outdated Manchester building could become new ‘innovation hub’ as part of £1.7bn transformation plans / Credit: Bruntwood
“The Renold Building will be an invaluable place to bring together like-minded organisations and partners to collaborate, develop, and test new ideas,” commented John Holden, who is the Associate Vice-President for Major Special Projects at UoM.
“We’re building our innovation ecosystem from the ground up, and the Renold Building will be a place that not only accelerates the growth of our city’s most promising entrepreneurs, SMEs and university spin-outs, but also provides the spaces and opportunities to allow our local communities to participate, experience and benefit from innovation too.”