Letchworth’s ‘What would Sappho say?’ competition winners receive prizes

Left to right: Chantelle Stephenson, Sean Pearce and Nicki Greenham posing with Sappho poster. Pictu

Left to right: Chantelle Stephenson, Sean Pearce and Nicki Greenham posing with Sappho poster. Picture: Jane Fae - Credit: Archant

Winners of Letchworth’s ‘What would Sappho Say?’ writing and art competition have received their prizes in Howard Park alongside the statue of the woman who acted as muse to so much creativity this summer.

Sappho was an ancient Greek poet who once lived on the island Lesbos, fragments of whose poetry have survived into the modern day. A replica statue of her stands in Howard Park and depicts the historic link between Letchworth and women’s suffrage which dates back to the town’s foundations.

The poetry competition was organised by Letchworth Gender Equality Network with the aim of thinking about women’s issues in 2017.

The £80 first prize was awarded last Sunday and went to local artists Sean Pearce and Chantelle Stephenson for an installation piece using post-it notes and quotes from notable women.

Although competition judging took place during June’s Letchworth Festival, it was not possible to hand out the prizes until now as Sean and Chantelle have been in Japan – studying indigenous artistic techniques.

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According to Sean, he got the inspiration for the piece from thinking about where Sappho would go.

He said: “I stumbled into WHSmith which, as a newsagents, is full of images and references for the role women perform in modern day society. The post-it note was an interesting tool to get across an instant message or statement.”

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Sean and Chantelle have previously exhibited in Letchworth as part of the Gallery’s Alternative Letchworth exhibition. They are also part of Meet Critique, a regular event organised by the Broadway Gallery, providing artists with the opportunity to discuss their work and invite feedback from their peers.

The second prize of £40 went to Nicki Greenham for a Sappho-inspired poem about binaries such as light and dark, yin and yang.

She said: “I wanted my poem to convey the idea of self-acceptance as something that everyone has to deal with regardless of gender or sexuality.

“I woke up in the middle of the night with the idea for the poem almost fully formed – and I couldn’t stop until I had it all down.”

Nicki also runs MCSaware.org, a Hitchin-based charity providing support and advice to individuals with multiple chemical sensitivity, an illness that causes allergic-type reactions in sufferers to very low levels of chemicals in everyday products.

Runners up received book vouchers for £10.

Jane Fae, who organised the competition on behalf of Letchworth Gender Equality Network, said: “I was pleased by the response to this competition, marking a long-term and unique association between Letchworth and a figure who was celebrated by the women’s movement in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

“The aim was to encourage people to think about women’s issues in 2017 – and this we did.

“Given the success of this competition, it will be back next year – though we will be looking for a different twist for 2018, which also happens to be the 100th anniversary of women gaining the vote in the UK.”

For more information about Meet Critique see broadway-letchworth.com/studio-gallery/whats-on/meet-critique, and for more about Nicki’s MCS charity see mcsaware.org/home/what-is-mcs.

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