Sylvia Pankhurst Memorial Fund

A scale model of the proposed Sylvia Pankhurst statue viewed by Rodney and members of the campaign committee.

Rodney Bickerstaffe – Patron of the campaign to raise a statue to Sylvia Pankhurst, suffragette, internationalist, socialist, anti-racist

It began on a bright sunny July day in Durham City.  Brass bands playing, crowds gathering for the Miners Gala – The Big Meeting. Friends were meeting and greeting. I was hanging out with friends in the Ferryhill Band.

Rodney Bickerstaffe, Helen Bagley, Helen Pankhurst, Kat Fletcher

Rodney Bickerstaffe was, as ever, warmly welcomed by everyone so it took a while to get to speak to him. Always considerate he asked what I was up to and so began the conversation – more of a monologue on my part – about A Statue for Sylvia.

Rodney was enthused by the project. He was particularly keen to engage trade unions in fund raising, not least his own union, Unison, with a majority of women members. The Sylvia Pankhurst Memorial Committee were delighted to have Rodney’s support and asked him to become a patron of the campaign. Rodney agreed. He was not simply a figurehead – rather very active. He constantly sought possible donors, spoke about the statue at meetings and distributed our details at every opportunity.

He also enlisted the support of the wonderful actress and activist Maxine Peake. Together they wrote and personally signed individual letters to all General Secretaries seeking donations. Some were rather….err slow to respond. Rodney was then well and truly on the case and because of him thousands of pounds were raised. 

His enthusiasm and activity never waned even when he became more ill, not letting on how poorly he really was. Always optimistic he would telephone regularly with ideas, names of potential donors and never made us feel we were bothering him. 

Rodney’s death was mourned by so very many people. He left a huge hole in the trade union and labour movement, including The Marx Memorial Library, and The International Brigade Memorial Trust, to name but two organisations who, like us, also benefitted from his commitment to educate and inspire present and future generations about the vigilance necessary to fight against fascism and racism. 

He would expect us to give details of how you can continue his commitment to raising A Statue For Sylvia :

We are crowdfunding on: 

The campaign website is 

Find us on and follow us on Twitter @sylviastatue 

Cheques should be made payable to “SERTUC (Sylvia Pankhurst)” and sent to Megan Dobney, 26 Birchanger Road, London SE25 5BB

Contact us 01479 851 306 or 07952 771 451 and 

Thank you Rodney.

By Philippa Clark on behalf of The Sylvia Pankhurst Memorial Committee, Barbara Switzer, Mary Davis, Megan Dobney, and Philippa Clark

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