Hazel Reeves, an award-winning artist and an elected member of the Royal British Society of Sculptors, is set to create a ‘Cracker Packer’ statue in Carlisle – depicting two women McVitie’s factory workers.
The exciting news that Hazel will lead the project has been announced today (Wednesday, 8 March) to coincide with International Women’s Day. Hazel is a well-respected artist and is on the Council of the Society of Women Artists. She has recently been shortlisted for the Emmeline Pankhurst statue commission for St Peter’s Square, Manchester and is well-known for her seven foot bronze sculpture of Sir Nigel Gresley, proudly displayed in King’s Cross Station.
Hazel was chosen by a panel made up of Jane Meek (Corporate Director, Carlisle City Council); Jane Davey (pladis); Elsie Martlew (former Deputy Leader of Carlisle City Council and former Castle ward councillor); Carlisle City Cllr Anne Quilter (Portfolio holder for Culture, Heritage and Leisure); and Cllr Anne Glendinning (ward councillor for Castle ward). Nick Hunt, Mid Pennine Arts, has been advising the council on the project.
Jane Meek, speaking on behalf of the panel, said: “The project attracted a lot of interest from a range of artists across the country. Hazel impressed the panel with her knowledge and enthusiasm for the subject and her ideas captured the spirit of the Cracker Packers.”
The Caldewgate art installation will have strong connections to McVitie’s and will be based close to the biscuit factory. Privately funded, the bronze statue will depict two women workers – one from past times and one from the modern day dressed in their respective factory uniforms. The two ‘Cracker Packers’ – the name given to workers at the (then-named) Carr’s biscuit factory – will be situated next to Paddy’s Market car park on John Street, Carlisle. They will be standing atop a bronze Carr’s Table Water biscuit, with the distinctive Carr’s signature logo embossed into it. The total height of the statue and its base, with granite plinth, will be just over one and a half metres (approx. 5ft 4 ½ inches).
Hazel Reeves is delighted to be involved in the Carlisle City Council managed project, she said: “I am inspired by the warm and vibrant stories of the Cracker Packers, past and present. Such stories of working women’s lives rarely make it into formal history yet need to be celebrated and shared with future generations. A figurative statue of the Cracker Packers, close to the factory, will be engaging and mark the importance of these women workers to the factory, to the community of Caldewgate and to each other. The final statue will have a sense of humour and effuse warmth and camaraderie. I’m hoping that working with Cracker Packers, past and present, will create a compelling statue loved by local people.”
pladis, the company that owns the McVitie’s factory in Carlisle, will have a close involvement in the art installation. In addition to a financial contribution towards the statue, pladis will also work with its staff – from past and present – to engage them in the story behind the artwork.
Mike Heaney, factory general manager, Carlisle, said: “We are proud that our factory is part of the fabric of the local community, and this commission reflects and celebrates a key element of Carlisle’s distinctive social and industrial history. This public art work will help honour those who have helped shaped our town’s history, and we can’t wait for the unveiling next year.”
Further community engagement is also planned through the development of the project. Installation of the statue is planned for spring 2018.
The statue is privately funded, including a contribution from pladis, £65,000 from Sainsbury’s (as part of their development of a Caldewgate new superstore) and £5,000 from Carlisle-born author Hunter Davies, who has a keen interest in the history of the McVitie’s site. He wrote “The Biscuit Girls”; stories of six so called Cracker Packers working in the Carr’s Biscuit factory.
To find out more about Hazel Reeves’ work, visit www.hazelreeves.com