Annie Kenney is ‘Immortalised’ as statue appeal gathers momentum

Words by Louis Stowe

A BLUE plaque commemorating Springhead suffragette Annie Kenney has been nominated for an appearance in the new Historic England exhibition ‘Immortalised’.

The plaque, to be found on the wall of Leesbrook Mill where Annie worked for 15 years, has been chosen as one of the exhibition’s featured memorials.

It follows an appeal by Historic England throughout the North West for people to promote some of the area’s lesser-known memorial tributes.

The ‘Immortalised’ exhibition, at the Workshop on 26 Lambeth High Street, London from August 30 to September 16, highlights the documented lack of women, working-class, and people of colour in England’s Memorial Landscape.

Recognition of Annie’s role in the suffragette movement comes at a time when a campaign to raise £40,000 for a statue of her in Oldham Town Centre gathers momentum.

A dinner was held last month including a re-enactment of what occurred by children from the St Thomas’s Leesfield Primary School.

The children have been learning about her life and what she and the suffragettes achieved in the face of great adversity as the country celebrates 100 years since some women were given the right to vote.

Supporters got to see the sculptor’s maquette statue of Annie, offering a glimpse of how the final statue could look.

Denise Dutton also spoke about the process of creating the statue from early research, modelling, fabrication and casting.

Annie became actively involved in the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) after hearing Christabel Pankhurst speak at the Oldham Clarion Vocal Club in 1905.

She was the most senior working-class woman in the WSPU, which was generally organised by women from middle class backgrounds.

The statue of Annie will stand outside Oldham’s refurbished Town Hall once the site where Winston Churchill addressed residents of Oldham.

Oldham West and Royton, Jim McMahon attended the dinner and said: “The Annie Kenney Project is more than a statue, although that’s important.

“We want to tell the story of our town and local people who achieved incredible things.

“It’s inspiring to see school children learning about Annie Kenney and retelling her story.”

Annie died on the July 9, 1953 aged 73 and Oldham Council erected the blue plaque in her honour.

Locally, a plaque recognising Annie Kenney, her history and what she did has been installed at Springhead Community Centre already.

And the community put up a tribute banner on February 6 to recognise the hard work and sacrifices suffragettes made on the 100th anniversary.

Commenting on Annie’s place in the Immortalised exhibition, Duncan Wilson, Chief Executive of England Historic, said: “We are very grateful that so many people living in the North West took the time to tell us about memorials in their communities and the stories behind them.

“At a time when our national statues and memorials are under increasing scrutiny, we’re delighted to shine a light on these often undiscovered and under-appreciated but precious markers of our past.”

For more information, visit: www.historicengland.org.uk/immortalised

If you or your organisation would like to organise a fundraising event get in touch with the Office of Jim McMahon MP: 0161 652 8485.

Or if you would like to donate, send a cheque payable to: Annie Kenney Fund, c/o Textile House, 108 Union St, Oldham, OL1 1DU.

Or by BACS transfer to Annie Kenney Fund : Sort code 05-06-46 Account 22367642.

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