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Our Public Artwork ‘Phoenix Women – 100 Years On’ Wins Portrait of Britain 2019

Bradford Victory in Portrait of Britain 2019

An astounding group photograph of Bradford’s leading women and unsung heroines has won the prestigious Portrait of Britain award.

Bradford based photographer Carolyn Mendelsohn submitted her ‘Phoenix Women – 100 Years On’ ‘I entered the portrait in the last minutes of the competition; I am overwhelmed and delighted that the picture has been selected as one of the winners. I certainly wasn’t expecting it. It feels wonderful that these real Bradford women are going to be celebrated in this way. I believe the photographic tableaux really does reflect the diversity and vibrancy of Britain today’

Now it will be seen across Britain throughout September; the 100 winning entries will be showcased across JCDecaux’s network of digital screens, from rail stations and airports to shopping malls and high streets including our very own Broadway. It will also be included in the Portrait of Britain book, published by Hoxton Mini Press and distributed worldwide.

‘Phoenix Women – 100 Years On’ is an Artworks Creative Communities project inspired by Flora Lions’ oil painting entitled ‘Women’s Canteen at Phoenix Works, Bradford’. She had been dispatched by the Ministry of Information to capture images of women working for the war effort in 1918. Deb Collett, project coordinator explains ‘We had been celebrating 100 years since some women got the vote, but the women depicted in the Phoenix Canteen would have been too young and too poor to exercise that hard fought for right. Our project pays homage to those women and shows how far we have come’

The photographic shoot was organised in less than 3 weeks and included several of our local councillors, an MP, and the first woman leader of Bradford Council – living proof that women not only vote but are voted for. Leaders of Bradford’s flagship organisations; Impressions Gallery, National Science and Media Museum, Build a Girl, Bradford Literature Festival, Bradford Community Broadcasting and more are side by side with women doing frontline jobs; bus driver, cleansing operative, midwife, police officer, plus women campaigners, activists, sporting heroines and cultural icons.

‘Phoenix Women – 100 Years On’ was unveiled in the Banqueting Suite at City Hall on International Women’s Day 2019 as part of Bradford’s celebrations. All 32 of the women in the picture were asked ‘What do you think is the most important progress women have made in the last 100 years?’ Their answers were bold, varied and all available in the project booklet. Lynrose Kirby (chair of Artworks Creative Communities Board of Trustees) spoke at the launch ‘There have always been resourceful, capable, intelligent, talented women in the world; it’s just that we have overcome some of barriers which have stopped us using these qualities in public and private life. It was an enormous privilege to meet and be one of the Phoenix Women – 100 years on. It has deepened my pride in Bradford knowing that these women are supporting our city to be the best it can be.’ These positive words are echoed by Mary Dowson (Director of BCB and Chair of our City of Culture 2015 bid) ‘What a strong foundation for Bradford’s City of Culture 2025 bid. The photograph brought together a formidable and diverse group of women from all sectors of life, particularly recognising their important contribution to our cultural dynamism. I am proud to be one of them and was honoured to be asked. ‘

Deb Collett comments ‘Enormous thanks, gratitude and congratulations to Carolyn; the reinterpreted and rejuvenated image she so painstakingly created simply glows with energy and sisterhood. A contemporary picture that pays homage to the past, combining skill and beauty with a participatory arts project – that’s Bradford creativity!’

Artworks calls on everyone who sees the portrait to ‘put themselves in the picture’ and upload a selfie or photo to social media with the hashtag: #PhoenixWomen100YearsOn and the location of where the portrait was spotted.


Further information and photos of the piece can be viewed here.