Widow of Ted Hughes says Mytholmroyd statue plans not what he would have wanted

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Plans for a statue to commemorate Ted Hughes in Mytholmroyd have been criticised by the poet’s widow.

Proposals for the £25,000 sculpture, based on imagery from Hughes’ poem Churn Milk Joan, are currently under consideration by Calderdale Council.

But Carol Hughes, who married Ted Hughes in 1970, said the sculpture would not be in keeping with the poet’s wishes.

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In a letter, she says: “I am disappointed that the project has reached this advanced stage without involving any formal consultation with me as representative of Ted's literary Estate - something that seems surprising and more than an oversight.

Mytholmroyd-born Ted Hughes Mytholmroyd-born Ted Hughes
Mytholmroyd-born Ted Hughes

“Many people will know that Ted chose that his ashes should be scattered on an area on Dartmoor here in Devon, close to the sources of several rivers he loved.

“He asked for a slab of granite to be placed there with just his name and dates to be inscribed upon the stone. Simple and beautiful.

“This project, the design of the sculpture, even the idea itself, all seem to me totally at odds with everything that was important to Ted, and to the person he was.”

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Mrs Hughes said a more fitting memorial would be environmental work to improve the canal with benches.

Those behind the sculpture have expressed confusion and dismay.

Villager and arts-worker Geoff Wood, who has led work on developing the sculpture, said full consultation on it had been done with the Elmet Trust, a Ted Hughes charity.

He said: “We were under the impression Mrs Hughes knew about the sculpture and was comfortable with it.

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“I don’t know what we do from here. Two years ago would have been the time for her to say ‘I don’t like this’.

“I can’t stop her from objecting, but I’ll be extremely disappointed. I also feel that although Mrs Hughes is his widow, and she must care passionately about his reputation and his work, there are a lot of other people who also care about him and there are other voices.

“I would welcome meeting her, because a lot of people are extremely proud of Ted and his work. He’s a son of Mytholmroyd. This place was important to him.

“So it feels a little uncomfortable for the village to feel it can’t honour Ted without the consent of someone who doesn’t live here.”