The Cracker Packers, Caldewgate, Carlisle
It was a joy to celebrate in bronze the lives of women biscuit factory workers – the ‘Cracker Packers’ – from Carr’s (now McVitie’s). Such stories of working women’s lives rarely make it into formal history yet need to be celebrated and shared with future generations. The statue was unveiled by the Cracker Packers themselves, past and present, on International Women’s Day 2018 in Caldewgate, Carlisle. This documents the whole journey, by Huckleberry Films (7m 33s).
Former and current Cracker Packers helped me choreograph the pose of the two women factory workers, one from the past and one from the present, captured in story-telling and happy chatter, atop a giant Carr’s Table Water Biscuit. Our workshop was memorable, full of laughter as these women generously shared their stories of life as a Cracker Packer. The final statue effuses this humour, warmth and camaraderie and has become a much-loved local landmark.
I followed traditional techniques to ensure the highest quality: scaling up from a maquette (scale model), building strong armatures to size on hydraulic tables, hand-building the clay figures, first unclothed, then sculpting-on the clothes. The costume for the Cracker Packer from the past, was designed from archive photos. The moulds were made in my studio, then shipped to the foundry.
Commissioner: Carlisle City Council, Zoe Sutton (lead)
Funders: pladis/McVitie’s, Sainsbury’s, author Hunter Davies, and the Heritage Lottery Fund
Unveiling: 8 March 2018
Material: Clay, bronze, black granite
Models: Sandra Reeves, Jennifer Kafetz, Rosie Talbot
Costume design: Rosie Talbot
Foundry: Bronze Age Sculpture Casting Foundry
Installation: Artful Logistics
Stonemasons: Tilleys Stonemasons
Studio technical assistance: Mark Longworth, John Reeves, Alan Shay
Professional photographers: Stuart Walker (Carlisle), Nigel Kingston (West Sussex)
Partner organisation: Tullie House Museum and Art Gallery (Claire Sleightholm, Lindsey Atkinson, Eloise Stott)
The real 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, Frances Jordan, and Jane Davey
Additional thanks: Anne Glendinning, Anne Quilter, Jane Meek, Nick Hunt (Mid-Pennine Arts), Sarah Irving (Carlisle City Council), Elsie Martlew (initiator of the project), Janet Wainwright (Carlisle City Council), Marji Talbot (Sussex Sculpture Studios), Jennifer Kafetz (workshop co-facilitation) and Sandra Reeves (workshop/exhibition illustrations)