Planned Virginia Woolf statue challenged as insensitive | Virginia Woolf

Concerns have been raised about a planned statue of Virginia Woolf overlooking the Thames, which has been called insensitive because of the way she killed herself.

The memorial the author, designed by Laury Dizengremel, would be positioned on a park bench overlooking the river on Richmond riverside in south-west London, where she lived for about a decade from 1914.

Woolf killed herself by drowning in the River Ouse near Lewes in East Sussex in March 1941 aged 59.

Richmond council’s environment, sustainability, culture and sports committee approved plans for the statue on Thursday, but a local conservation group said it feared its positioning was in poor taste given the nature of her death.

Barry May, the chair of the Richmond Society, said the group had suggested three alternative locations in Richmond where she lived until 1924, when she moved to Tavistock Square in central London.

Woolf was part of the influential Bloomsbury Group and is considered one of the 20th century’s most important authors, pioneering a non-linear approach to narrative. She and her husband, Leonard Woolf, founded Hogarth Press in 1917. She had problems with mental illness throughout her life.

“Given the manner of her illness and eventually the way that she died … it struck us as a little bit insensitive to have this statue and figure of Virginia Woolf seated on a bench gazing over the water,” May said.

“We support proposals for a statue for her somewhere, we thought she should be commemorated somewhere, nothing wrong with that. It’s just when it overlooks the river.”

The only current memorial to Woolf in Richmond is an English Heritage blue plaque on Hogarth House where she and Leonard founded their publishing house.

Aurora Metro, the south-west London publishing house campaigning and fundraising for the statue, received a slew of donations after the controversial unveiling of a statue honouring Mary Wollstonecraft in Newington Green, north London in 2020. It has raised £35,000 of the £50,000 needed for the bronze since 2017.

An audit of statues in London in October found there were more depictions of animals than named women on the capital’s streets. Only 4% of the 1,500 monuments are dedicated to women.

Charlotte Banks, from Aurora Metro, told the meeting at Richmond council: “Efforts by the Richmond Society to change the location of the statue which has been chosen for many practical reasons … comes across as an attempt to push people like her out of sight.

“The statue’s intent is to celebrate diverse lives and encourage conversations around mental health, feminism, sexuality and gender. This cannot be done if the statue is tucked away on a residential street.”

Councillors spoke in support of the plans, saying it could encourage discussion of mental health issues.

In the UK and Ireland, Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123 or by emailing [email protected] or [email protected]. In the US, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. In Australia, the crisis support service Lifeline is 13 11 14. Other international helplines can be found at

Recommended For You