Statue of pioneering poet and campaigner Cranogwen to be unveiled next weekend
A statue to honour the pioneering poet, campaigner, journalist and mariner, Sarah Jane Rees – better known by her bardic name of Cranogwen – will be unveiled in Llangrannog, Ceredigion next Saturday (June 10).
The statue is the third commissioned by Monumental Welsh Women of a named, non-fictionalised woman to be erected in an outdoor public space in Wales.
It follows the unveiling of the Betty Campbell Monument in Cardiff in September 2021, and of the statue of writer Elaine Morgan in Mountain Ash in March 2022.
Monumental Welsh Women’s mission is to erect five statues honouring five Welsh women in 5 different locations around Wales in 5 years.
Invited guests will attend a ceremony celebrating Cranogwen at the Urdd Centre – Gwersyll yr Urdd, Llangrannog – followed by an open invite to members of the public to join a procession that will travel on foot to unveil the statue in the village’s newly renovated community garden, near the church where Cranogwen is buried.
Designed and created by renowned sculptor Sebastien Boyesen, the statue represents Cranogwen’s extraordinary life and her many and varied achievements.
Echoing Cranogwen’s encouragement of female talent, Keziah Ferguson, a promising female sculptor has been mentored during the project by Boyesen, working with him on the commission.
The unveiling will be followed by a celebration that will echo elements of Cranogwen’s many achievements and will feature local artists and performers including Qwerin and Eddie Ladd.
Cranogwen was a pioneer in many fields considered unsuitable for women at that time. She was a skilled mariner and worked for two years as a sailor on cargo ships between Wales and France. Aged 21, she became a headteacher, overcoming opposition to the appointment of a woman.
A gifted writer, she was the first woman to win a poetry prize at the National Eisteddfod, beating the major male Welsh poets of the day, Islwyn and Ceiriog. She went on to be one of the most popular poets in Wales and was the first woman to edit a Welsh-language women’s magazine – ‘Y Frythones.’ Packed with stories, poems and features, it campaigned for girls’ education.
As an editor, Cranogwen also encouraged the talents of other women; several of the female writers she gave a platform to in ‘Y Frythones’ went on to successful literary careers.
Cranogwen also excelled with the spoken as well as the written word.
At a time when public speaking by women was frowned upon, she embarked on a career as a lecturer, Temperance campaigner and preacher – travelling across America twice.
Cranogwen was the first woman to win an award for poetry at the National Eisteddfod of Wales; to honour this Professor Mererid Hopwood, the first woman to win a Chair at the National Eisteddfod will guide the ceremony with Casi Wyn, Bardd Plant Cymru and Hanan Issa, National Poet of Wales reading work penned especially for the event. Local school pupils will also be taking part.
Helen Molyneux, founder of Monumental Welsh Women group said, “Our Mission is to celebrate female ambition and success by commemorating the achievements of great Welsh Women – and to inspire the next generation of great Welsh women.
“We are delighted to be able to announce the unveiling of this – the third statue in our campaign. This permanent memorial of Cranogwen will stand in the heart of her beloved community of Llangrannog, and will serve as both commemoration of a remarkable, brave and pioneering woman and her many groundbreaking achievements and as inspiration to all of us who come after her.’
Anne-Marie Bollen from Cerflun Cymunedol Cranogwen Community Monument added: “Cranogwen would be proud of the community in Llangrannog who’ve come together actively and inclusively during this campaign, a small community with a big heart.
“Local children will unveil Seb Boyesen and Keziah Ferguson’s amazing, life size, bronze statue set within an accessible, beautiful, village garden.
“Our genuine thanks to each and every supporter. As with previous generations, those to follow will also be inspired by Cranogwen.’
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