On the 1st of November I was privileged to represent the Charles Bradlaugh Society in order to attend the unveiling of the bust of Bradlaugh in London.
How times change. In 1880, Mr Bradlaugh was denied the right to take his seat as the chosen elected Member of Parliament for Northampton. Not just denied the right, but actually roughed up in the “House” and imprisoned in the clock tower.
A hundred and thirty six years after this injustice, Bradlaugh’s memory and his honour is resplendently displayed with a fine bust by Suzie Zamit.
The artist took to the podium and told a packed room, that she had decided to capture Mr Bradlaugh at the very peak of his powers, before stress had prematurely aged him. She certainly captured his very essence, and one could feel the gravitas of the man, as he must have been in life.
She added, “I feel privileged as an artist to have had the chance to bring this visionary Victorian to life and to give recognition to a heroic man who worked tirelessly to achieve what he believed in – even in the face of adversity. After poring over every existing photo of Bradlaugh and reading Bryan Niblett’s book Dare to Stand Alone, I was able to start piecing together a fuller picture of the man himself, and I relished the challenge. I found various written descriptions of his ‘grave, quiet, stern, strong face’; his ‘direct gaze and large blue eyes’: his height and athletic proportions, and his great charisma and ability to command a packed hall”.
Mr Keith Porteous Wood, of the National Secular Society, also spoke at the event, remarking that when he saw the bust for the first time, he almost felt he could reach forward with an outstretched hand and shake the hand of his hero, such was the likeness.
The event was hosted with impeccable skill and charm by Wirral South MP, Alison McGovern.
Charles Bradlaugh will take his rightful place in the lower waiting hall of Westminister, where it is hoped his bust might inspire future generations.