put her forward launch speech

On 10th July 2018 we gave the following speech about put her forward at the Heritage Open Days launch:


Hello. Can you all hear me? Can you all see me? I’m going to ask for your attention for the next 10 minutes or so.

put her forward is an art project about visibility. It’s about recognizing the people, the women, who have made a positive impact on us, made our lives easier, healthier, happier and in some instances have saved our lives entirely.

put her forward is about recognizing women who perhaps aren’t famous, but are still inspirational, who might not grace the cover of a magazine, but who we recognise in ourselves. People that aren’t from one ethnicity, body type, place, age or background, but are as diverse and as interesting as our country.

And tonight we want to ask each of you, which woman inspires you?

There are 925 public statues in England. 158 of these are women, but when you take out royals and mythical women we are left with 25. 25 women who existed at some point in our history and did something that was deemed worth remembering. There are more statues of men called John. There are more statues of goats.

Caroline Criado-Perez wrote “the burgeoning field of role-model research demonstrates the palpable impact role models can have on a woman. They can influence her academic course choices, they can radically alter her knowledge of political candidates, and her likelihood of voting; they can transform her public-speaking ability, enabling her to speak better and for longer; and they can even change her test scores causing her to score higher where she had no female role model”.

The point is that if you can see people like you be respected and admired for their achievements, you are then more likely to believe in yourself, you are more likely to achieve things also.

Tonight, we invite each of you to help readdress this imbalance of role models, and we will help you do that.

‘We’ are an artist group called non zero one. That’s me, Cat, and then John (who is one John who currently doesn’t have a statue), Fran here and Sarah, who couldn’t be here tonight. We came across Caroline Criado Perez’s article about statues at about the same time Heritage Open Days put a call out to artists for ideas. It seemed we were all on the same page. We could all see this lack of representation of women in public and we were all thinking “How do we readdress this imbalance? How does this conversation about representation become more than just ‘us’? How can we have this conversation with as many people as possible, with men as well as women and everyone in between?”

And so we, non zero one, thought up put her forward. Here’s how it works:

  • Anyone from the public, such as you, nominate living women who have made a positive impact on people around them. These are women who maybe haven’t received recognition before, but could be pillars of their communities, organisations, sectors or families.
  • We will invite up to 25 of these nominated women to be 3D scanned and printed into full-colour sandstone figures. 25 to match the current number of statues, to double what we have now.
  • During the Heritage Open Day weekends of 6th-9th and 13th-16th September non zero one will travel the country unveiling the statues in places that are relevant to the scanned women

So that’s it really. Our solution to the problem of “there aren’t enough statues of women” is “well, then let’s make some more”.

Nominations are open until 29th July 2018, and people can nominate in 3 ways – online at www.putherforward.com, during workshops we’ve been doing with different community groups up and down the country or as a live nomination with one of our team. We’ve been taking our trusty sign across England, outside train stations, supermarkets and libraries to gather nominations live, in person. And for tonight only, we are here, with our sign and our plinth and our zoom audio recorders, ready and willing to listen to you.

So I’d you to think, which woman would you nominate?

[Extracts from nominations]

  • She has enlightened and educated all of us… [she] is such a significant figure for a more enlightened world and a more enlightened multi-cultural city.
  • She is living proof that if you go for what you believe in, you can make a difference, you make yourself a nuisance until you get your message through
  • She is a bold, brash and loud member of a community silenced and abused by our society.
  • She should be recognised as a symbol of a modern day woman who has endured a terrible personal tragedy, but who has channelled this grief to make the UK a better and safer place
  • She is a force to be reckoned with… She will always advocate for those who cannot help themselves… People need to know what this woman has done.
  • All she has wanted is to make people feel safe and a sense of pride for where they live
  • She supports her local community and fights local causes… She is wise beyond her young years. No one could be better to be remembered as a hero forever.
  • She has shown me the importance of speaking truth to power and I hope that a statue of her will inspire others to believe in their own power to effect change.
  • She is truly altruistic expecting nothing in return other than our happiness. The strength, calm and kindness she has demonstrated is an inspiration to all. She has become a friend for life to us, and our daughter who will grow up knowing of the amazing start she had in life.

These are some of the voices who have nominated already, and you can too. Without getting too weird now, I want to invite you to close your eyes, just for a moment. Take a breath and try to give yourself a moment to focus on these following questions, just to simply answer in your head:

  • Who are the women that have had the most positive impact on your life?
  • What are the qualities and traits that you admire in these women?
  • What have any of these women done for their communities around them?
  • How can these women inspire generations of people to come?

Now, still with your eyes shut, in a moment I’d like you to speak aloud the names of these women, imagining you’re looking up at them as a statue. It can be their first names, whole names, nick names, just altogether for a moment this room will be filled with these remarkable women. Altogether now in 3,2,1…


You can now open your eyes.

100 years since the first British Women were granted the vote has been a brilliant time for a celebration and 100 years on we still need change. As women we still get paid less, are still being denied abortion rights in the UK, we are still having our pussies grabbed by the most influential men on Earth. We all know this. And we all know that for every passing opportunity a white, able-bodied woman like me might get to speak to a room of influential people like you, we know that this is an opportunity made all the more difficult for women of colour, disabled women and/ or trans women. Which is why we chose to ask the public to nominate living women, because we need to build on the visibility issues of today. Because historical women are even harder to know about, especially historical women that don’t fall into the cis-white, upper-class bracket. And new role models can inspire everyone, not just women. For every unseen story made visible, the more people can feel that they too can be the change.

So whilst we’re in this beautiful room tasting these delicious canapés please know that there is also this offer to change our world, even just slightly. To have the conversation and show the public new women, new stories that they can look up to, that they can be inspired by.

We’ll be here all evening. Please do come and take the time to put her forward.