Cracker Packers’ statue unveiled

 International Women’s Day

8 March 2018 – 11am

Hazel with her unveiled Cracker Packers' statue (Photo Stuart Walker)

As you read this, women biscuit factory workers – the so-called Cracker Packers – are unveiling my bronze statue dedicated to their work, lives and friendships. It’s in the perfect spot in Caldewgate, Carlisle, right near to the Carr’s (now McVitie’s) factory.

It has been a dream commission. The past year has gone so quickly. I have been working away in the studio on the statue, consisting of two women biscuit factory workers – one from the past and one from the present – engaged in story-telling and happy chatter, atop a giant Carr’s Table Water Biscuit.

I hope the statue conveys the humour, warmth and camaraderie of these women. But this was only made possible by their generosity in sharing their vibrant and hilarious stories with me at the start, at the McVitie’s factory in April 2017.

Thank you Cracker Packers Ann Mulholland, Liz Bamber, Jean Burgess, Sue Tinning, Grace Reibitt, Dorothy Watson, Kathleen Rook, Dot Reynolds, Christine Milner, Lina Poole, Cath Thanner, Tracy Higgins and Frances Jordan.

What a joy to work with my models – my fabulous sisters (below left) Sandra Reeves and Jenni Kafetz and budding author and seamstress extraordinaire Rosie Talbot (below right). They have amazing patience as I manipulate them into awkward positions and dress-them up in costumes. Couldn’t have done it without you – hope you judge that the pain was worth it in the end!

I have been writing a blog about the process and set up a new YouTube channel with Cracker Packer-related videos. Take a look. Comments very welcome.

Here finally are the THANK YOUs…in addition to the amazing current and retired Cracker Packers and my three models, I would like to thank:

Carlisle City Council and in particular the utterly supportive and star Zoe Sutton and the one woman media machine Sarah Irving
Jane Davey (Panel) from pladis/McVitie’s, whose foot made it into the final statue
Nick Hunt (Panel) from Mid-Pennine Arts, who said all the right things
Bronze Age Foundry for the mould-making and bronze casting
Artful Logistics for installing the bronze at Caldewgate
Tilleys Stonemasons for the granite base and its installation
Marji Talbot, sculptor, for an invaluable critical eye
Mark Longworth, sculptor, for the initial work on the armature
Hunter Davies, author of the Biscuit Girls, and Elsie Martlew (Panel), for their idea to have a statue
Claire Sleightholm, Lindsey Atkinson, Eloise Stott from Tullie House Museum and Art Gallery and Janet Wainwright from Carlisle City Council for their work on the Cracker Packers’ exhibition
– all the selection panel members who have been so supportive, and not included already: Anne Glendinning, Anne Quilter and Jane Meek
– the funders pladis/McVitie’s, Sainsbury’s, Hunter Davies, and the Heritage Lottery Fund
– the official photographers Nigel Kingston and Stuart Walker
– and a big thanks to my dear Dad, always ready to help out in the studio, and Alan Shay for helping re-lay the studio floor.

And thanks to the rest of the family and all my friends who have been so very supportive and patient with me.

Sister Sandra also wonderfully illustrated our Cracker Packer workshop in Carlisle – I’ll leave you with one of her illustrations currently part of the Tullie House ‘Spirit of the Cracker Packers’ exhibition display, opening on 10 March.

Cracker Packers illustration by Sandra Reeves

(Photos by Nigel Kingston, Stuart Walker and Hazel Reeves.)

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