Sculpture of Black protester installed on plinth on Edward Colston statue

Jen Reid and statue by Marc Quinn
The Canary

A sculpture of a Black woman who took part in a Black Lives Matter protest in Bristol has been erected on the plinth where a statue of slave trader Edward Colston used to stand.

Artist Marc Quinn created the life-size black resin and steel piece of Jen Reid, from Bristol, after seeing a photograph of her standing on the empty plinth after the Colston statue was toppled.

The sculpture, entitled A Surge of Power (Jen Reid), was erected shortly before 5am on Wednesday by Quinn’s team without the knowledge or consent of Bristol City Council.

The statue in Bristol
The black resin and steel statue by Marc Quinn is titled A Surge of Power (Jen Reid) (Ben Birchall/PA)

Mayor Marvin Rees previously said any decision on how the plinth should be used would be decided democratically through consultation.

After the sculpture was installed on the plinth, Reid stood in front of it with her fist in the air.

She recalled climbing onto it after the Colston statue was pulled down and spontaneously raising her arm in a Black Power salute.

People photograph the piece (Ben Birchall/PA)
People photograph the piece (Ben Birchall/PA)

“It was like an electrical charge of power was running through me,” the stylist said.

“My immediate thoughts were for the enslaved people who died at the hands of Colston and to give them power.

“I wanted to give George Floyd power, I wanted to give power to Black people like me who have suffered injustices and inequality. A surge of power out to them all.”

The piece is in Bristol city centre (Ben Birchall/PA)
The piece is in Bristol city centre (Ben Birchall/PA)

She added: “Creating this sculpture is so important as it helps keep the journey towards racial justice and equity moving, because Black lives matter every day.

“This sculpture is about making a stand for my mother, for my daughter, for Black people like me. It’s about Black children seeing it up there.

“It’s something to feel proud of, to have a sense of belonging, because we actually do belong here and we’re not going anywhere.”

The statue was thrown into the harbour on June 7 (Ben Birchall/PA)
The statue was thrown into the harbour on 7 June (Ben Birchall/PA)

On 7 June, protesters on the Black Lives Matter march used ropes to pull the Colston statue from its plinth in the city centre.

It was dragged to the harbourside, where it was thrown in the water at Pero’s Bridge – named in honour of enslaved man Pero Jones who lived and died in the city.

Reid described the Colston statue being thrown into the river as “a truly historical moment”.

Bristol City Council retrieved the statue on 11 June and said it would be displayed in a museum along with placards from the Black Lives Matter protest.

Quinn’s previous works include self-portrait Self and a sculpture entitled Alison Lapper Pregnant, for the fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square.

The statue was pulled from the harbour on June 11 (Bristol City Council/PA)
The statue was pulled from the harbour on 11 June (Bristol City Council/PA)

The artist, who had been following events following the death of Floyd, contacted Reid after a friend showed him a photograph on Instagram of her standing on the plinth.

“My first, instant thought was how incredible it would be to make a sculpture of her, in that instant,” he said.

“It is such a powerful image, of a moment I felt had to be materialised, forever. I contacted Jen via social media to discuss the idea of the sculpture and she told me she wanted to collaborate.”

He added: “The plinth of Edward Colston in Bristol seems the right place to share this sculpture about the fight against racism, which is undoubtedly the other virus facing society today.”

Quinn said the sculpture was not being put on the plinth as a “permanent solution”.

“We want to keep highlighting the unacceptable problem of institutionalised and systemic racism that everyone has a duty to face up to,” he said.

He described the sculpture as “an embodiment and amplification” of Reid’s ideas and experiences.

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  • Show Comments
    1. No statues please of anyone – Ever! – for whatever an individual may be praised for doing. We don’t need elitist, separatist, bourgeois edifices of a ‘named somebody’ that makes of the rest of us all ‘nameless nobodies’. Tear all statures down and put in their place tickling water fountains or have resulting empty plinths used for periodically placed artwork created by all manner of artists and craftspeople local and national. Or, if a figure must be stuck up on high above the rest of us plebs who will never have statues made of us make of the stature, as many countries have their “Unknown Soldier”, with “The Unknown Nurse” or “The Unknown Carer” or “The Unknown NHS Worker” or “The Unknown NHS Organ Doners” all of anonymous people regarded as ethically ‘essential’ to society.

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