Opinion 2 minute read
Statues seem to be getting a lot of airtime and not all of it is favourable.
Last month the all-male cast in Parliament Square found new female company as a bronze statue of suffragette Millicent Fawcett was unveiled. Millicent now stands resplendent, thanks to feminist writer and activist Caroline Criado Perez – the woman who also led last year's successful effort to get Jane Austen on the £10 note. Apparently, there are more "John" statues than female statues in the UK. Go figure.
Not quite so popular in March, was the unveiling of the first statue of David Bowie, a multi-figure cast charting the legend's manifold musical personas. Paid for through a fan's crowd funding efforts, the statue was vandalised in less than 48 hours as some local residents, mistakenly thinking the council had paid for the project, sprayed "Feed the homeless first" at the rock star's feet. To be honest, and with my PR beret on, this labour of love did raise "stunt" alarm bells from the get go, appearing to be as much a vanity project as a testament to Bowie; including a peitition to ask that the council rename Aylesbury to Aylesbowie.
As brand reputation managers, it's interesting to muse and reflect on the powerful role statues play – politically, socially and culturally. It seems to me that statues tick a number of different comms boxes. Some, it could be argued, are an intelligent long-tail stunt. Others an immovable gong to celebrate and honour amazing achievements – from bravery to breakthroughs in science, art and politics. Some a power shout where leaders with narcissistic tendencies erect themselves to wave their willies, lest no man nor woman forget they are in charge. Not surprisngly hubris often wins: remember the iconic moment when Saddam Hussein's statue in Firdos Square was destroyed in the 2003 invasion of Iraq marking the symbolic end of the Battle of Baghdad?
From the statue of Liberty, Rio's Christ the redeemer to my all-time fave, The Angel of the North, statues, when well constructed and located, can also imbue pride, passion and a sense of purpose, galvanising communities of interest, gender, geographic and race. They inspire and comfort in equal measure – which is why Hollywood repeatedly crushes patriotic plinths in sci-fi movies to signal the end and beginning of eras, welcome or not.
So let's hear it for statues: the good, the bad and the downright ugly. Wherever and whoever, behind each and every one of them is a story that needs to told and remembered.
Written by Angie Moxham, founder of agency The Fourth Angel and previously founder of agency 3 Monkeys