Visible Women

A statue of Virginia Woolf has been given the go-ahead in London

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Moya Crockett
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The sculpture will show the ground-breaking writer gazing out across the River Thames, a book on her lap. 

Less than a week after artist Maggi Hambling was commissioned to create a monument to Mary Wollstonecraft in north London, a statue of another iconic female writer has been given the seal of approval.

A bronze sculpture of Virginia Woolf has been granted full planning permission by Richmond Council, after the statue was endorsed by over 80% of local residents who responded to a public consultation.

Sculptor Laury Dizengremel has been commissioned to create the memorial of Woolf, which will show her sitting on a bench on Richmond Riverside, a book placed on her lap as she gazes peacefully out across the greenery. 

Although Woolf suffered from depression for many years, she was also renowned for her lively quick wit and readiness to laugh, and Dizengremel says she was delighted to be asked to portray the writer in a happy state of mind.

“Being asked to create the first ever full figure statue of Virginia Woolf, and to portray her happy side was a total thrill,” she says. 

An artist’s impression of the Virginia Woolf statue in Richmond 

Arts and education charity Aurora Metro has been campaigning for the statue since the end of 2016. Now that planning permission has been granted, they need to raise £50,000 to make the sculpture a reality, and are accepting donations via their fundraising page.

“We’re delighted to receive planning permission for the statue to be placed on Richmond Riverside as we believe it will celebrate Richmond’s literary heritage and attract Woolf-fans to the town,” says says Cheryl Robson, director of Aurora Metro.

Woolf wrote several ground-breaking books that emphasised the value of female independence and explored themes of sexual and gender fluidity. She is perhaps best known for her non-fiction long essay A Room of One’s Own, in which she advocated for women having a private space away from men in which they could pursue their creative and intellectual interests.

Her fictional works include Orlando – a fantastical, satirical novel about an aristocratic poet who changes sex from male to female over the course of their centuries-long lifetime – and Mrs Dalloway, which examines the restricted role of women in British high society and sees both male and female characters grappling with feelings of bisexuality and mental illness. 

Artist Laury Dizengremel at work on the statue of Woolf 

Woolf is normally associated with the bohemian Bloomsbury neighbourhood of central London, where she spent much of her adult life mixing with other artists, writers and intellectuals (aka the “Bloomsbury Group” or “Bloomsbury Set”). She is also frequently connected to East Sussex, where she owned a home for more than two decades and died in 1941.

However, Aurora Metro hope that their statue of Woolf will raise awareness of the writer’s connection to Richmond, a grand, leafy suburb of south-west London. 

Woolf and her husband Leonard moved to Richmond from Bloomsbury in 1914 and lived there for a decade, setting up their publishing house Hogarth Press from their home on Paradise Road.

Throughout 2018, Stylist is raising the profiles of brilliant women past and present – and empowering future generations to follow their lead – with our Visible Women campaign. See more from Visible Women here.  

Images: Getty Images / Virginia Woolf Statue Campaign