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Monumental poem for monumental woman

11 October 2021

Alumna pays poetic tribute at trailblazing Betty Campbell statue unveiling

Poet Taylor Edmonds, a graduate of MA Creative Writing (2020), has written and performed her specially-commissioned poem at the unveiling of the first statue of a real, named Welsh woman.

Taylor read her poem When I Speak of Bravery in front of the Campbell family and huge crowds at the towering 4 metre statue in Cardiff’s Central Square.

The ceremony also included speeches from Cardiff Council leader Huw Thomas, Minister for Social Justice Jane Hutt MS and Professor of the History of Slavery at Bristol University Olivette Otele, video messages from noted Welsh celebrities including actors Rakie Ayola and Michael Sheen and a performance of Campbell’s favourite song by Oasis One World Choir.

Speaking soon after the unveiling, Future Generations Commissioner Wales’ Poet in Residence Taylor Edmonds said:

“It was an honour to read at the unveiling of Betty Campbell’s monument and to have been a part of such a significant day for Wales. I grew up in Barry and had heard of Betty and what an inspiration she was growing up, for her impact on teaching Black Welsh history.

It was important to me that I captured Betty as she was, so I spent a lot of time researching, watching videos of Betty and speaking to her daughter, Elaine, to get to know her better. The response from Betty’s family, friends and previous pupils has been so moving, and I’m reminded of how powerful poetry can be. I hope this is the start of many more Black people in Wales being celebrated in this way.”

Wales' first black headteacher Betty Campbell is known for paving the way to equality and diversity in the capital and beyond, and taught at Mount Stuart Primary School in Butetown for 28 years.

She is remembered for putting black culture on the curriculum and taught children about slavery, apartheid and the contribution to British society made by people of colour. She also championed multiculturalism in her role as Butetown Councillor.

The idea for the first sculpture of a real Welsh woman has been five years in the making, with not-for-profit organisation Monumental Welsh Women championing the rebalance to recognise the country's 'hidden heroines'.

Mrs Campbell topped a public vote from a list of 50 historic Welsh woman to become the first Welsh woman to be celebrated in a public sculpture in Wales.

The unveiling came just ahead of Black History Month, celebrated throughout October.

Cardiff University is a pioneer of teaching Creative Writing in the UK and continues to offer both undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in its world-class School of English, Communication and Philosophy.

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