Art project unearths city's ghost stories

An artist who has taken up a three-month residency at Bradford's 26-acre Undercliffe Cemetery says she will use the time to help uncover the overlooked stories of women who are buried there.

Artist Debbie Sharp at Undercliffe Cemetery, Bradford. Picture by Simon Hulme

Debbie Sharp, who has undertaken similar projects in Manchester, London and Buenos Aires, was inspired by the life of the trade unionist and suffragette Julia Varley, who worked in a Bradford mill at 12 and went on to site on the general council of the TUC.

She is buried at Undercliffe, a Grade II listed site whose Gothic Victorian memorials and Egyptian-style obelisks tell their own story of Bradford’s Victorian age.

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Ms Sharp, who lives in Hebden Bridge, said: “It is women like Julia that I want to uncover and bring to the forefront of the cemetery to celebrate their lives.”

“There is a blue plaque on her former home in Birmingham, but here in Bradford where she was born and died, she is less remembered.

“But she was fundamental in workers’ and women’s rights.”

A series of events at the cemetery will extend the art project – which marks the centenary of the first women to get the vote in Britain – to members of the public, who will be invited to meet the artist and to create cards dedicated to other inspirational women from the city. They will form part of a new art installation in the cemetery.

The project will end with an evening of art and live performance in November.