Campaign to honour Elsie Inglis in Edinburgh 'paused' after royal sculptor backlash

A campaign to create a permanent memorial to medical pioneer on Edinburgh’s Royal Mile has been put on hold in the wake of a furore over the appointment of a male royal sculptor to create the work.
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Trustees have revealed they have “paused” the campaign to honour Elsie Inglis and also referred their charity to the official regulator after supporters raised concerns about the way Alexander Stoddart was appointed.

More than £60,000 has already been raised for the statue. However, some supporters say they were furious that an open call for the commission was scrapped without any public explanation or apology to artists who had been working on designs.

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The campaign has now claimed it had decided on a “change in the direction of travel”, with the appointment of “a sculptor and artist of world renown”.

Medical pioneer Elsie Inglis was due beccome the first woman to be honoured with a statue on Edinburgh's Royal Mile.Medical pioneer Elsie Inglis was due beccome the first woman to be honoured with a statue on Edinburgh's Royal Mile.
Medical pioneer Elsie Inglis was due beccome the first woman to be honoured with a statue on Edinburgh's Royal Mile.

The trustees for the Campaign for a Statue for Elsie Inglis have also concerns about the “level of vitriol” they have experienced since the unveiling of Stoddart, who is officially known as The King’s Sculptor in Ordinary in Scotland, on Monday.

Critics have objected to the suspension of a competition launched in August to find an artist to create the new bronze statue for the High Street and a subsequent announcement that Stoddart had “accepted the commission”.

An open letter posted on the campaign’s Facebook page stated: “He has no clear links with Elsie Inglis or feminism and is very much not in the spirit of the original brief.”

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Earlier in the week the trustees suggested that critics of the appointment seem more interested in promoting women’s rights rather than honouring Elsie Inglis.

However, in a new statement they said: “The trustees have taken the decision to pause the process and reflect on the both the positive and negative feedback received, particularly from our

supporters to date, to consider our options and will make further comment after this period of reflection.

”We have increased the funds and committed funds in the charity from less than £3,000 in January of this year to more than £60,000 at the end of October.

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“All expenditure in support of the charity, including fundraising events and marketing materials, have been funded entirely through the generosity of supporters.

“We initiated a competition through a ‘call to artists’, but made a change in this direction of travel and instead made a decision to award the commission to a sculptor and artist of world renown.

“We cancelled the process as early as we possibly could, with a public announcement on the website and informing the two artists who had submitted their applications at this time.

“The decision to cancel the call to artists and instead award the commission to Alexander Stoddart was taken unanimously by the five trustees, acting in the best interests of the charity, which is to raise the funds to commission, design, produce and erect a statue for this exceptional woman and Scottish historical figure.

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“The reaction to our decision has comprised both positive support and negative, but what’s concerning is the level of vitriol directed by some of the contributors, which is bordering on the defamatory.

“We have made OSCR aware of the process we followed to arrive at this decision and as trustees we will welcome any independent review by the regulator.”