Martin Jennings FRBS wins PMSA's Marsh Award 2017

Figurative sculptor, Martin Jennings is having a particularly good week. On 7 November his over life-sized statue of George Orwell outside Broadcasting House in London was unveiled to great acclaim. Next day, Jennings won the prized PMSA’s Marsh Award for Excellence in Public Sculpture with Women of Steel, a stunning bronze sculpture sited in front of Sheffield City Hall, which commemorates the women who worked in the armaments industry during WW2. Women were conscripted from all over South Yorkshire to the steel works, some were as young as 14.

Sheffield City Council launched the campaign for this public sculpture, which was spearheaded by four of the original Women of Steel, Kathleen Robert, Ruby Gascoigne, Dorothy Slingsby and Kit Sollitt. The campaign resonated with the public and over £150,000 was raised. Councillor Julie Dore, Leader of the Sheffield Council, commented that the sculpture ‘has already become an important part of the landscape of Sheffield city centre and has become a symbolic landmark. A beautiful lasting legacy of Sheffield’s formidable Women of Steel has been created that truly captures the essence of what those women stood for and went through.’

On receiving the award from HRH the Duke of Gloucester, the President of the PMSA, in front of a packed audience in central London, Jennings gave a short talk about his winning composition and highlighted the lack of public sculpture of commemorating influential women, saying that there should be more statues representing them. He told us ‘I am delighted to have won this year’s Marsh Award. The PMSA is the organisation whose high standards one hopes to live up to with each new public sculpture. To be judged to have done so with my Women of Steel monument validates the great efforts we took to recognise these remarkable wartime heroines. Heartfelt thanks to the wonderful PMSA and Marsh Christian Trust.’

The keynote speaker, the celebrated sculptor Richard Wilson RA, also tackled the role of the nature of public sculpture, speaking from years of experience, he raised several relevant and topical questions such as how it should be seen, what should determine its longevity and how can the role of planners be better defined. Read his full speech Public Art – Observations

A talented pair of sculptors from the West Country, Rodney Harris MRBSand Valda Jackson, who specialise in brick carving carried off a Special Prize for Low Relief. This was for four relief sculptures which were commissioned by the Peabody Estate for the St John’s Hill Estate in Wandsworth, South London and was part of a complex planning exercise.

These four public sculpture reliefs carved from brick on the the façades of the buildings depict pinafores, a porter’s uniform, a sink and a set of gardening tools – items seen as representing the Estate’s history. These reliefs were an important part of an initiative to transform this housing estate dating from the 1930s into a development suitable for modern living.

After the ceremony, Rodney Harris told: We are absolutely delighted that our work has been recognised in this way and would like to thank thePMSA.’ He added that he was grateful to us for our interview with him, which he said had drawn public attention to this work.

The PMSA’S Marsh Award for Excellence in the Conservation of a Public Statue or Public Fountain, now in its fifth year, went to Sally Strachey Historic Conservation for their painstaking work on the cleaning and conservation of the Perseus and Andromeda Fountain at Witley Court, Great Witley in Worcestershire for English Heritage. Grade I listed, and one of the grandest fountains in Europe, it was designed by the leading landscape gardener, Wiliam Andrew Nesfield. Carved from Portland stone by James Forsyth in his London studio, the fountain was transported from there to Witley, where it was installed c.1860. Read more.

After the ceremony, Sally Strachey told us ‘SSHC Ltd are absolutely delighted to have won this prestigious award. As a company we have a passion for heritage and we love our work. The team who worked on the Perseus and Andromeda Fountain have done a magnificent job and are a credit to the company and conservation in general. This is a wonderful accolade – thank you very much.’

Main image: Martin Jennings, Women of Steel, 2016, bronze  (photo: Steve Russell Studios)

Aurora Corio