Spotlight on Statues: Victoria Wood, Bury

The latest statue to grace Greater Manchester is a memorial to award-winning actress Victoria Wood.

In the heart of Bury is a quiet and tranquil spot called Library Gardens. It is here where you will come across a life-sized statue of Victoria Wood – actress, comedian, writer and all-round top lass.

It would be appropriate to call Victoria Wood a national treasure, and her memorialisation (which I’m 56% sure IS a word) in the north of England seems fitting to say the very least.

Created by sculptor Graham Ibbeson, this statue is to commemorate and remember Wood who sadly lost her life tragically to cancer back in 2016 aged just 62. It stands in the gardens today in a spot which is quite poignant in terms of her career.

Wood was born in the suburban town of Prestwich and attended Bury Grammar School when she was a girl. Although she wasn’t very good at school, Wood spent a lot of time in the Library and it is even said that she used to steal books from the very library her memorial now stands outside – all because she was too embarrassed to ask to join. It is more than likely that it was here where she picked up her passion for writing.

An actor, singer, comedian and writer – Wood was most famous for her BAFTA award-winning comedy series in the 1980s entitled ‘Victoria Wood: As Seen on TV’.  This sketch show was infamous at its time for skits like ‘The Waitress’, ‘Acorn Antiques’ and her best known musical number ‘The Ballad of Barry and Freda’.

It is safe to say that much of her humour was grounded in mundane existence, and especially in the everyday lives of the northern working classes. From turns of phrase to behaviours that were nothing less than quintessentially British – Wood had a real intelligent knack for depicting how things really were whilst still managing to be side-splittingly funny the whole time.

Wood was noted for her skills in observing culture and for her ability to turn aspects of social class into satire that was always amusing and never offensive. Manchester and the north were always at the very core of what she did which was certainly inspired by her youth growing up in Bury and Prestwich.

As a writer, she was famous for her hit BBC sitcom Dinnerladies staring herself alongside Julie Walters and Maxine Peake set in a fictional canteen of a factory somewhere in Manchester. It was a sometimes poignant and hilariously funny depiction of Northern life in the 1990s. Wood wrote the first season in a little under a month.

A little later in her career, Wood branched out her writing away from comedy and into drama. In 2006, she gained two BAFTAs for her World War Two ITV drama ‘Housewife, 49’ which was an adaptation of the diaries of Nella Last. She also starred in the title role.

From the moment she burst onto the scene up until when she died, Victoria Wood’s appearances on television and on stage were always much anticipated and she is hands down one of Britain’s best-loved stand-up comics.

Not only that, but she is loved and dearly missed here in Manchester, so her presence in the quiet library gardens is one that we can certainly get on board with.

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