Statue of pioneering Welsh poet, campaigner and mariner Cranogwen (Sarah Jane Rees) to be unveiled in Llangrannog, the third ever statue of a non-fictionalised woman in Wales.
A statue to honour the pioneering poet, campaigner, journalist and mariner, Sarah Jane Rees – better known by her bardic name of Cranogwen – is being unveiled in Llangrannog, Ceredigion on Saturday, June 10th 2023, following a campaign by Cerflun Cymunedol Cranogwen Community Monument, a subgroup of the Llangrannog Welfare Committee, in partnership with Monumental Welsh Women.
This is the third statue commissioned by Monumental Welsh Women of a named, non-fictionalised woman to be erected in an outdoor public space in Wales, following 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 5 statues honouring 5 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 the public to join a colourful and creative procession that will travel on foot from the Urdd Centre to unveil the statue in the village. The statue will stand in the newly renovated community garden in the centre of Llangrannog 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 a creative and ambitious celebration that will echo elements of Cranogwen’s many innovative achievements. Thanks to the sponsorship of the Arts Council of Wales, the support of Literature Wales and Urdd Gobaith Cymru there will be numerous artists taking part in the event, including those local to Ceredigion who have achieved international renown, such as Qwerin and Eddie Ladd.
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.
The statue was commissioned following the Hidden Heroines campaign organised by Monumental Welsh Women, broadcast on BBC Wales. The other women on the shortlist were Margaret Haig Thomas (Lady Rhondda), Elizabeth Andrews, Elaine Morgan and Betty Campbell, who became the first woman on the list to be honoured with a statue.
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, Cranogwen 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 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.
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 said, “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.”
Elin Jones MS, a member of the Sculpture Steering Committee added, “The expectation is high for this statue of Cranogwen, one who achieved so much locally, nationally and internationally and did that at a time when it was not acceptable for women to do such things. We hope that unveiling the statue with a creative celebration will be a way of paying a well-deserved tribute to an outstanding woman.”
An invite-only ceremony celebrating Cranogwen takes place at the Urdd Centre – Gwersyll yr Urdd, Llangrannog, SA44 6AE from 11am – 12pm, BST, Saturday 10th June.
The public procession from the Urdd Centre – Gwersyll yr Urdd Llangrannog to Llangrannog village begins at 1pm with the statue unveiling taking place at approximately 2pm. The procession will then proceed to Llangrannog beach for further performances. The event will finish at approximately 2.45pm. Please note the main road between the Urdd Centre and Llangrannog village will be closed to vehicles between 12:50 – 15:00.
You can find out more about the work of Monumental Welsh Women via their website.