Golden girl Dame Kelly Holmes unveils Olympic statue

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Last Updated: 11 Oct 2017 3:10pm

A statue of Dame Kelly Holmes has been unveiled by the double gold medallist herself.  At an official ceremony held on Tuesday 10 October, people involved in the project gathered in Tonbridge to see Dame Kelly unveil the impressive statue which now stands proudly within a large raised flower bed at a key entrance to the town coming from Quarry Hill Road (south, opposite St Stephen’s Church).

The project evolved when businesses in the Quarry Hill, led by Claire Orme, area joined forces with local artist Guy Portelli and Tonbridge business Mary Mary Creates Gardens to create a unique piece of art in an eye catching area that is sure to delight residents and visitors alike.  The statue entitled ‘Golden Girl’ is a modern abstract interpretation of Dame Kelly Holmes and is of metal structure with gold-leaf detail.  The raised planter has been transformed with a wildflower meadow and three small trees, which are black, white and gold, mirroring the title of Kelly’s autobiography. The centrepiece is the statue created and donated by artist Guy Portelli, and mounted on a plinth which incorporates the artwork of children from The Slade Primary School, Woodlands Primary School and Sussex Road Community Primary School.  All the landscaping and planting has been carried out by Mary Mary Creates Gardens free of charge (apart from the cost of the materials).

As Dame Kelly Holmes unveiled the statue it was the first time she had set eyes on it.  She says: “I’m delighted with the statue which not only represents when I won my two Gold medals but a time that bought pride and recognition to my home town.”

In September 2008, cheers and applause filled the air as tens of thousands of people lined the streets of Hildenborough and Tonbridge to welcome home Kelly as she proudly displayed her 800m and 1500m medals from the top of an open-top bus, smiling and waving to the crowds.  In 2012 Kelly carried the Olympic torch through Tonbridge and then brought the Commonwealth baton to the town in 2014.  She continues to do much to help the community and local schools and is an Honorary Freeman of the borough of Tonbridge and Malling.

Kelly continues: “It’s so fitting that the statue is here, in the place where I began my athletics training and that hosted my welcome home parade from the Olympics.  I will never forget that day for as long as I live.  Thank you to Guy Portelli, Claire Orme, the children and everyone involved in making this happen, it means a great deal to me.”

Nicolas Heslop, Leader of Tonbridge & Malling Borough Council, says: “This wonderful community project has transformed the southern gateway to Tonbridge town centre and I hope that it will be admired by everyone travelling into the town. To see 80,000 people celebrating with Kelly in Tonbridge all those years ago was truly amazing, so huge congratulations to Guy Portelli for capturing such a momentous occasion in this piece of unique art.  Thank you also to everyone who helped bring this project to life – I’m sure people will agree that it’s an inspiring asset to our town”.

The cost of the work (approximately £7,500) has been met by Tonbridge & Malling Borough Council’s Local Centres’ Project, which has enabled the Council to work with traders across the borough to deliver environmental projects.  The funding was given to the Borough Council from the Government’s High Street Innovation Fund.  The newly renovated raised flower bed will be maintained by Kent County Council, which owns the planter.