Date of this Version
The George Eliot Review 17 (1986) Published by The George Eliot Fellowship, http://georgeeliot.org/
With an awareness of something positive to do, the Fellowship entered 1985 with a feeling of optimism, and with our thoughts very much occupied with the George Eliot Statue Appeal. By the beginning of the year, and six months in from the launching of the appeal, we were more then halfway to our target, and a lot of work continued to go on to raise the rest of the money and to negotiate all that was necessary in connection with the erection of the statue. These negotiations continued throughout the year in conjunction with Nuneaton Borough Council. The Chief Executive Mr. Ian Clarke, his assistant Mr. West, and the Leader of the Council, Councillor Olner, have all been extremely helpful, encouraging and supportive. Not only has this made a great deal easier the effort of raising funds for the statue, but it has forged a strong link between the Fellowship, and Nuneaton and Bedworth Borough Council, has shown the Council what our enthusiasm and know-how can do, and has proved that they fully support our work to obtain local recognition of the greatness of the lady who was born so close to Nuneaton and whose roots so deeply influenced what she later wrote.
Among special fund-raising projects during the early part of the year was 'An Evening with Steve Race' at the University of Warwick Arts Theatre when this popular entertainer gave his services free. With generous sponsorship from Anglia Building Society, this event raised over £500. Sean Patterson, the proprietor of the George Eliot Hotel, raised over £300 with a Barn Dance at the hotel, and our President, Jonathan Ouvry with his wife Marjorie and three friends who call themselves 'The Parlour Performers', gave an excellent performance at St. John's, Abbey Street, and this raised over £200.
In June, just a year after launching the appeal, we reached our target of £8, 000. We had been confident of our ability to do this, but didn't think we would do it in so short a time. However, our pleasure was somewhat dampened by the news that our invitation to H. Re H. The Duchess of Kent to unveil the statue in the Autumn had been turned down but would be reconsidered by the Duchess for her Spring programme if we were prepared to wait for a further decision later. After some discussion, the majority view was that we should wait, even though this might result in a second refusal. Sadly, this is what happened. Neither the Duchess, nor Princess Alexandra to whom an invitation was also sent, could fit us into a busy Spring progroamme. This was very disappointing, particularly when we heard of other Royal visits being planned to take place nearby, but one has to accept that there must be very many invitations to members of the Royal Family which are not able to be accepted, and ours was only one.