Annie Comes Home!

After two years of fundraising Oldham received its stunning Annie Kenney statue in Parliament Square, with the main speech by Maxine Peake.

Inspiring performances and personal stories, and stand out Choir, at Gallery Oldham provided a perfect start to the day before hundreds gathering to march behind Oldham Youth Brass Band to the Old Town Hall.

We enjoyed performances from Amy Gavin, Oldham Theatre Workshop, Inspire Oldham and Hazards supported by actors including Julie Hesmondhalgh.

It was a full on day, well couple of days, for the volunteers who had worked so hard to make this a reality. As the statue arrived the previously day it was all hands to the deck to prepare for the opening.

The day got off to an early start with volunteers preparing, Oldham Council staff and Gallery Oldham staff supporting to make sure it passed smoothly.

The statue was funded entirely by donations, kickstarted by the GMB trade union and made up with amazing events from schools, community groups, trade unions and political branches, and local businesses. Fundraising events were held including four dinners, a suffragette tour in London, a sponsored run, a theatre production, film screening, non-uniform days, raffles, cake sales, private donations – and much much more.

We were also joined by artist Stan Chow who supported the campaign with a striking design of Annie Kenney which had been sold as limited edition prints.

Young people had been central to the project because as much as the statue is important, it is Annie’s story reaching a new generation which has been the most inspiring part of the project. Fitting then that it was the children from St Thomas School who held a production and march to raise funds, had been asked to unveil the statue.

They were joined by many other schools, the College, scout groups and others, all of whom who raised funds.

So many schools, groups, businesses and more did so much that if I even try to list them now I’ll almost certainly miss someone who needs a mention; but we are preparing a booklet to commemorate the project and with mention and thanks to all groups and organisations who made it possible so watch this space early next year!

Thanks to all of you who made it possible; to all on the fundraising committee and to those who held events, turned up and took part. It would not have been possible without you. Be proud.

We also remember Sue Dearden who served on the Project group and although she passed away before the statue was completed I am sure she was with us yesterday, sharing the energy, complete with sash, and shouting at the top of her voice.

Annie shows us that with belief and determination we can achieve extraordinary things. She is a working class inspiration.

Choose unity and courage over division and cowardice. #loveoldham

(Being so caught up in the event I failed to take many decent photos so sincere thanks to those who took these, and so many beautiful photos on social media of Oldham at its finest)

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