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Published June 6th 2018
King Alfred's daughter celebrated with six-metre sculpture
The Staffordshire market town of Tamworth has been given a new protector - although she's been known about for centuries. An impressive statue of the Anglo-Saxon warrior queen Aethelflaed has finally been unveiled to her people of Tamworth after spending months in the sculpting. The huge monument to Lady Aethelflaed, the daughter of King Alfred the Great, has now been installed on a prominent roundabout outside Tamworth Railway Station. The unveiling of the six-metre tall steel figure marked the end of 18 months of consultation, designing, planning and back-breaking labour by artist Luke Perry.
The six-metre sculpture of Aethelflaed following its unveiling
The meticulous operation to install the landmark sculpture involved a large crane, ropes and ladders. The result is an impressive, striking sculpture which will greet people as they step off the train and point them towards the town centre of Tamworth. The 'Roundabout Art' project is one element of the Arts in Unusual Spaces initiative, funded by Arts Council England and developed by Tamworth's Arts & Events team, which is seeing art in all its forms popping up in a variety of locations across the borough. The sculpture is funded by Arts Council England and Tamworth Gateways Project – a partnership between Staffordshire County Council and Tamworth Borough Council. Aethelflaed is a key figure from Tamworth's past, having played a pivotal role in English history by building a chain of fortifications against Viking invaders throughout the Kingdom of Mercia. Her fortification of Tamworth in 913 AD became the forerunner to the existing Tamworth Castle. She was chosen as the subject for the new statue following consultations with local people. This year marks the 1,100th anniversary of Aethelflaed's death in the town in June 918.
For sculptor and artist, Luke, it was the final stage in a long project which became a real labour of love. He said: "It's really nice to have the statue finished and safely in place. I'm really pleased with the final effect as, engineering-wise, this is rather advanced for a sculpture and I think it works really well. I've loved helping to raise awareness of Aethelflaed. The people of Tamworth told me they were most proud of their Anglo-Saxon heritage and I think we've successfully brought that to life for generations to come." The unveiling of the statue was one of the final duties performed by the outgoing Mayor of Tamworth, Councillor John Chesworth who said: "The unveiling of this statue of our Lady of the Mercians marks the end of a long project by many different partners, and the end result is really stunning. The creation of the sculpture brings together several projects and initiatives; to bring art into more areas of Tamworth, to improve the gateways into the town centre and to celebrate one of the most legendary and important figures in our Anglo-Saxon history.
The statue is given its finishing touches before the big day
Previously there was nothing to really welcome people into Tamworth – but now they will be greeted by a bold and striking image representing our rich heritage which will hopefully encourage visitors to explore this great town further. There's nothing like this being unveiled in the region currently and we've already had lots of coverage for Our Aethel so the sculpture is already helping to put Tamworth on the map. We hope the people of Tamworth will now take 'Our Aethel' into their hearts and that visitors to the town enjoy being greeted by her as they step off the train." To celebrate the unveiling of the statue, Tamworth Borough Council is asking people to join a social media campaign and #DotheAethel. Simply take a picture of yourself, or with your friends, replicating the pose of the impressive steel statue, and share it on social media with the hashtag #DotheAethel. The hope is that the campaign will attract attention across the country and further afield.
People urged to join social media campaign, #DotheAethel
To join in, share your pictures on social media, tagging @VisitTamworth, using #DotheAethel and #Tamworth. For more information about the Aethelflaed anniversary events and full instructions on how to #DotheAethel, please visit www.aethelflaed.co.uk