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Hidden stories of Perthshire’s pioneering women inspire Fair City sculpture trail

Vanessa Lawrence celebrates Perthshire's pioneering women with her wire sculptures in the Raise the Roof trail.
Vanessa Lawrence celebrates Perthshire's pioneering women with her wire sculptures in the Raise the Roof trail.

The hidden tales of pioneering women from Perthshire are the inspiration behind a sculpture trail around the Fair City that opens on Friday.

Ayrshire-based artist Vanessa Lawrence has created 20 life-size wire sculptures, each representing local women whose extraordinary deeds helped shape history, society and culture.

The Raise the Roof trail has digital and paper maps providing locations as well as information about each woman. It will run until September.

Escaped the World Trade Center

Vanessa also has a remarkable tale of her own, having made a miraculous escape from her studio on the 91st floor north tower of the World Trade Center in New York during the 9/11 terror attacks on the US in September 2001.

She was just two months into an artist in residence post at the Twin Towers when the tragic events unfolded, returning to live in Scotland soon after.

Vanessa Lawrence escaped from the 19th floor of the World Trade Center during 9/11.

Vanessa loves to work outside and has been busy making the most of the summer weather while crafting each sculpture from galvanised wire.

She says: “The stories are all so fascinating – from the first marine engineer to suffragettes. All of these strong women in their own right.

“As I have been building them up and surrounding myself with them, I have found their stories inspirational.”

Vanessa painted for many years before moving into sculpture and she continues to make 2D works that are inspired by her sculptures. She creates wildlife as well as human figures.

Trailblazers in their field

The women who feature in the trail were chosen as trailblazers in their field by a number of local community groups.

These groups then worked closely with a local artist to research the woman and create a project to understand more about her.

All the work was shared with Vanessa, who developed the sculptures, deciding upon which poses they would assume.

They are not portraits of the women, but rather representations of them and their achievements.

Eve Muirhead, Eilidh Doyle and Cailleach

“Other artists have been working with the community groups doing different projects so I am really excited to see what they’ve been doing,” Vanessa explains. “I love the idea that everyone has been involved.

“Because I have been so busy creating all of the sculptures I feel I want to go back and learn more about all of these women.”

Among those featured in the trail are Eve Muirhead OBE, who led the British women’s curling team to a gold medal in the 2022 Winter Olympics and Aggie Moffat, a tea lady who went on to become a local legend at St Johnstone Football Club in Perth.

Eilidh Doyle, née Child, has become one of Scotland’s most successful athletes and Cailleach is the mythical Celtic goddess said to have created the great Scottish landscapes.

One of the wire women by Vanessa Lawrence, part of the Raise The Roof sculpture trail in Perth.

Vanessa adds that making her sculptures life-size gives them a real human presence as you interact with them.

She says: “You will be walking around them, meeting them and in their presence. The wire lends itself really well to these women’s histories and stories as some have disappeared a little bit.

“From certain angles or in certain lights you don’t see them, and then the light will shine on them and they will stand out. The galvanised wire can sometimes glow.”

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