‘Battling Barbara’ is larger than life

Published Wednesday 22 September 2021 at 14:53

A bronze-cast statue of Barbara Castle has literally been years in the making, according to sculptor Sam Holland.

Kent-based Sam Holland won a national competition to win the right to recreate the famous former Blackburn MP.

Sam has been pouring over old photos, archive material and digesting Barbara’s autobiographies to ensure the no-nonsense political figure was portrayed accurately.

Sam, a self-confessed feminist, said: “Barbara should have been celebrated 50 years ago. She was a great advocate for those who aren’t heard.

“At the time, she was a lone woman among men in power. She’s always kept going forward and pushing the boundaries.

“The hardest part of the process is getting the pose right. It’s all about capturing her energy and determination.”

The statue shows Barbara as a very spritely 60-year-old, striding purposefully holding an oversized equal pay act.

“It took a year to model because of Covid. I managed to go into the archives and speak to people who knew her. It’s about tweaking and tweaking and tweaking until I can’t, or shouldn’t, anymore. Millimetres really make a difference.”

Sam has been liaising with Jack Straw, who succeeded Barbara as MP for Blackburn, to ensure the statue looks like the ‘Red Queen’.

Sam added: “Jack was supposed to come and see her but couldn’t because of Covid-19. Instead, we had emails flying backwards and forwards with tweaks until it truly looked like her.

“The statue is about 6ft tall – so she is literally larger than life. She was only 5ft and a fag end in real life.  She has wrinkles, and she has a slight wry smile without showing her teeth.

“She’s being installed directly into the ground. She didn’t want to be on a pedestal. She talked to people on the ground, so it was important that she was in amongst the people.”

Sam, who is the sculptor responsible for creating Geoffrey Chaucer in Canterbury, the founder of the football league William McGregor at Aston Villa, and the RNLI memorial sculpture in Poole, will be attending the unveiling on Saturday 9 October.

She said: “I love that Blackburn is a town that embraces art. It has so interesting female statues like the Mother and Child, Queen Victoria, and the Grandmother and Child.

“I have been doing this for 35 years. It was a chance to recreate a key political figure. This was always the way I wanted to portray her.

“Barbara has been in storage so I’m looking forward to seeing her again.”

Blackburn with Darwen Council Leader, Councillor Mohammed Khan CBE, said: “This is an important piece of public art for many reasons. For me it will represent the spirit of Blackburn. We look forward to welcoming the very talented sculptor back to Blackburn for the grand unveiling next month.”


This site uses cookies. Find out more about this site’s cookies.