Thursday 27 November 2014

Well done Sheffield, you’ve done it! You’ve smashed the £150,000 target in recognition of our wonderful ‘Women of Steel’.

The fundraising began in 2012 to raise the £150,000 for a special group of Sheffield women who worked tirelessly in Sheffield’s steelworks and factories during the two world wars to help keep industry going in the city. Their bravery and determination in working in unfamiliar surroundings of the factory floors has been virtually un-recognised over the last seventy years.

The campaign was launched by Sheffield City Council, who committed £28k to the fund, and called on everyone from local businesses, individuals, organisations and friends and family of the Women of Steel themselves to come together and get involved in raising the money required to commission a permanent memorial. The response has been overwhelming and support has come from not just local supporters but nationally and internationally, with recent coverage spotted as far as the United Arab Emirates.

Following consultation with a group of the Women of Steel, including the four ladies who have spear-headed the campaign: Mrs Ruby Gascoigne, Mrs Kathleen Roberts, Mrs Dorothy Slingsby and Mrs Kit Sollitt, the preferred memorial was decided – a figurative statue, made from bronze, to be located in Barkers’ Pool in the city centre. And last night, at a special concert held at Sheffield City Hall, the news that everyone has been waiting to hear was finally made official with a cheque presentation from John Morris of Sheffield based company Stauff UK.

Mr Morris recently contacted the appeal to say the company would like to make up the shortfall to hit the £150,000 target. Based on Carlisle Street East on the old site of Cammell Laird, later to be known as English Steel Corporation and finally British Steel Corporation, Stauff UK employs 220 people nationwide with 140 living in Sheffield.

Mr Morris told us: “Steel production on this site started 150 years ago and during both world wars the women of steel manufactured shells, armour plates, and we also believe the bouncing bomb made famous with the Dam Busters raid. After a discussion with our staff we would like to donate the amount required to take the fund to its target of £150k. The company will be donating this amount along with some further donations from staff at their own request.”

He added: “We currently supply the hydraulics for the two new UK aircraft carriers and many other Ministry of Defence ships and defence vehicles. And we are proud to be a part of this historic moment where the women finally get recognised for their gutsy contributions to industry during the wars.”

John’s wife Tracey Morris and their 8 year old daughter Jade presented their cheque for £3360 to the Leader of Sheffield City Council, Cllr Julie Dore. This contribution along with the ticket sales to the sold out concert takes the fundraising well over the target amount.

Cllr Dore has been behind the campaign from the start and said: “Well done Sheffield, you’ve smashed it for our Women of Steel. We have been overwhelmed by the response of people both locally and nationally to help achieve our goal of raising the funds needed for the commemorative statue. The amazing stories of contributions large and small over the last few years, are a credit to our great city, to the Women of Steel, and to everything that this campaign stands for. And so to everyone involved, I would like to share my heartfelt thanks.”

“We can officially confirm that the statue is on order from the sculptor Martin Jennings, and the schedule for the unveiling in Barkers Pool is now on track for the Summer of 2016.”

Last night’s concert not only marks the fundraising target being smashed, but the start of the next chapter for the Women of Steel: keeping the legacy going. Cllr Dore added: “We have already started to discuss ideas for commemorative keepsakes, exhibitions, educational resources and apprenticeships to make sure we always remember and pay our respects and thanks to our Women of Steel.”

“Special thanks go out to John Palmer who has played a very significant role in co-ordinating fundraising events over the last few years; to The Sheffield Star who have helped keep the campaign in the spotlight locally; and to everyone who has supported the campaign. And finally we say well done to our inspirational Women of Steel themselves whose bravery, determination, work ethic and sheer guts are finally being given the recognition they deserve after 70 years.”