Aphra Behn statues to tour UK as part of national competition

Four statues of Aphra Behn, the first professional woman writer, are due to tour the UK as part of a competition to find a fitting monument of the 17th century author.

The public are being invited to vote on the final four designs, which have been cast in miniature in bronze, and which were shortlisted from 50 original submissions earlier this year.

The winning commission will be erected in Canterbury High Street – near to where Behn grew up.

The tour will begin at the Royal Shakespeare Company, in Stratford upon Avon, on the June 27 and 28. It will then visit:

  • Marlowe Theatre, Canterbury – June 30
  • National Civil War Centre, Newark – July 2
  • Penshurst Place, Kent – July 4 and 5
  • Chawton House, Hampshire – July 6
  • Canterbury Cathedral, Canterbury – July 9
  • The Royal Exchange, London – July 11 and 13

Viewing and voting is also possible online.

The four shortlisted artists and the title of their pieces are:

  • Maurice Blik – Aphra Behn: Mind over Matter
  • Meredith Bergmann – The Untamed Heart
  • Christine Charlesworth – Aphra Behn: Playwright, Poet, Pioneer
  • Victoria Atkinson – Astrea

Individual photographs of each piece and artist are available on request, as are contact details for all of the artists.

The campaign was launched by the Canterbury Commemoration Society in partnership with the Aphra Behn education charity A is for Aphra and Professor Elaine Hobby from Loughborough University

Prof Hobby said: “I am looking forward to the tour enormously, and it’d be hard to choose which venue is most exciting.

“Starting at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon is particularly fitting, given how much audiences loved Loveday Ingram’s production there of The Rover in 2016-17.

“Who knows, maybe the extraordinary quality of the maquettes might be followed by another Behn play in Shakespeare’s theatre?

“Perhaps the most beautiful modern building we’re taking the maquettes to is the National Civil War Centre in Newark, though, where our visit coincides with a free Family Fun Day on 2 July, where children will have the chance to make their own clay statues. And my own grandsons have promised to come along.

“The most important aspect of the whole adventure, however, is the chance to talk with anyone who happens by a venue – and with those who are coming specifically to view the maquettes and learn about Aphra Behn’s achievements.

“So, anyone who happens to be – or can arrange to be – in the vicinity of any of our venues in the next two weeks really should come and talk.

“It is completely wonderful that we will end with Canterbury Cathedral, taking the mini-statues back to Behn’s home city, where quite soon we’ll be erecting a life-size statue of her.

“That happy day will be the beginning of new educational activities designed to promote the achievements of the first professional woman writer in English.”

The campaign is backed by celebrities and politicians, including the Culture Secretary, Nadine Dorries; novelist, Margaret Atwood; poet, Wendy Cope; Royal Shakespeare Company Associate, Alexandra Gilbreath and playwright and poet, Maureen Duffy who has an Icon Award for Outstanding Lifetime Achievement from Attitude magazine.


Aphra Behn (1640-1689) was a playwright, poet, novelist and spy. She was the first professional woman writer.

Her book Love-Letters between a Nobleman and his Sister is sometimes hailed as the first English novel and she was the most prolific playwright of her generation.

Behn was born in the Canterbury area in Kent and lived in and around the city for at least the first sixteen years of her life. She is buried in Westminster Abbey.

As well as being an inspiration for tens of thousands of writers who followed in the centuries after her death, Behn is hailed as an LGBTQ+ icon, having written beautiful, funny and sensitive love poetry to other women.


The public have until midday on September 1, 2022 to cast a vote for their favourite statue design.

Voting is via the Canterbury Commemoration Society website www.cantcommsoc.co.uk.