Statue of Wales’ first black headteacher unveiled


Statue of Wales’ first black headteacher unveiled

A statue of Wales’ first black headteacher has been unveiled in Cardiff.

Betty Campbell MBE is believed to be the first woman to have a monument in her honor erected in an open space.

Mrs Campbell, who died in 2017 aged 82, has been immortalised in bronze for her “pioneering” work championing equality and diversity.

She was chosen for the memorial by the Welsh public who voted in BBC Wales’ Hidden Heroines campaign.

The statue of Betty Campbell (Ben Birchall/PA)(PA Wire)

Born in Butetown in 1934, historically one of the city’s most multi-cultural areas, as a child she was told by teachers her dream of becoming an educator was “insurmountable”.

Her father died in World War II. Her mother struggled to provide for her needs and she was raised in Tiger Bay, now the regenerated Cardiff Bay.

She was a passionate learner and won a scholarship at Lady Margaret High School for Girls in Cardiff. However, as a black working class girl, her teachers warned her that she would never be able to achieve her goals.

When she was Mount Stuart Primary School’s headteacher, Butetown, students were introduced to slavery and black history through the US civil right movement.

Nelson Mandela visited her only time in Wales as part of his 1998 presidency. She was impressed by her efforts to promote equality and multicultural education.

Betty Campbell (Simon Campbell/PA)(PA Media)

She went on to help create Black History Month, serve as councillor for the Butetown ward, and was a member of the Home Office’s race advisory committee.

She received an MBE for services to education, community life in 2003.

Sculptor Eve Shepherd has created the memorial which was unveiled in a ceremony on Wednesday in Cardiff’s Central Square.

Jane Hutt MS was the Minister for Social Justice, and Olivette Ole, Professor of History of Slavery at Bristol University, delivered speeches.

A Poem, When I Speak Of Bravery, was read by Future Generations Commissioner Wales’ poet-in-residence Taylor Edmonds, and video messages were played from the likes of Good Omens star Michael Sheen the Prince of Wales and singer-songwriter Labi Siffre.

People at the unveiling of the statue of Betty Campbell, Wales’ first black headteacher (Ben Birchall/PA)(PA Wire)

Mrs Campbell’s granddaughter Michelle Campbell-Davies told the PA news agency: “Representation really, really matters.

“The images we see as young women, as people of colour, as Welsh citizens, they influence our thoughts and our thinking.

“One of the great things is having this statue of nan and all it represents in the centre of Cardiff it goes to show the tide is turning.

“It gives a nod to the younger generation as well to just believe in yourself and know that there are people out there advocating for you.

“You don’t have to settle for the boundaries people set for you.”

(Ben Birchall/PA)(PA Wire)

Her daughter Elaine Clarke told PA: “I feel very emotional, but really proud that it’s my mum who is going to be the first statue in Wales of a woman.

“If my mum, bless her, was here she’d be delighted. It’s an unusual sculpture, and my mum was a very unusual woman so I think it’s very fitting that a sculpture like this was made by Eve.”

The sculpture was commissioned by Monumental Welsh Women, an organisation on a mission to create five statues honouring five Welsh women, with Mrs Campbell’s being the first.

In the coming five years, statues will be unveiled to honor Margaret Haig Thomas (known as Lady Rhondda), TV writer Elaine Morgan, Elizabeth Andrews (first woman organiser of Labour Party in Wales) and Sarah Jane Rees (known as Cranogwen).

Helen Molyneux, founder of Monumental Welsh Women said: “Betty’s impact during her life was incredible, but, as with so many women throughout history, likely to be forgotten or overlooked by future generations unless something was done to bring her to people’s attention.

“The monument created by Eve Shepherd will certainly achieve that.

“It is a truly iconic, beautiful piece that will attract the world’s attention to Cardiff.”

(Ben Birchall/PA)(PA Wire)

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, described Mrs Campbell as a “trailblazer” but said there is “much more to be done” to make teaching staff more representative of communities.

Addressing a plenary session in the Senedd, Rhys ab Owen, MS for South Wales Central, said Mrs Campbell had inspired “thousands upon thousands” of people.

He continued: “I was in awe of Betty at a young age. Even as a youngster I experienced this incredible character, with a rebellious streak and a great turn of phrase.

“I heard Betty say many times that she was proud to be black, and proud to be Welsh – the two went hand in hand.

“I am grateful for the team behind Monumental Welsh Woman for ensuring the statue of Betty Campbell is the first of many statutes that will appear to commemorate women in Wales. But can I say, there is nobody more fitting to be the first than Betty Campbell.”


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