Inspired by our Lady

A TRUST planning to bring a fictional pirate to life has praised the pioneering work done by Banbury's Fine Lady appeal committee to make fundraising easier.

In a landmark ruling the Banbury committee persuaded the Charity Commission to change its mind over its approach to charitable status for monuments and statues.

It made it easier to get grants and donations from businesses and individuals for the 170,000 project.

The Fine Lady on a White Horse statue was unveiled by Princess Anne last month.

Now the Long John Silver Statue Trust hopes it can take advantage of the rule change to bring one of Bristol's most famous characters to life.

Secretary Mark Steeds said the trust had applied for charitable status for the project citing Banbury as an example.

He said: "The pioneering work Banbury did is certainly helping people like us.

"Until Banbury's campaign they just wouldn't give charitable status to statue projects.

"We are very grateful. The Banbury people have been inspirational to us without them knowing it. The Fine Lady statue is a great project. We will be coming up to see and enjoy it. It's fame is spreading already."

The trust wants to erect a statue of Long John Silver in time for the 125th anniversary of the first publication of Robert Louis Stevenson's classic adventure book Treasure Island in 2008.

It would be sited next to one of the Inn's featured in the book.

Mr Steeds said he hoped Bristol City Council will be as supportive as Banbury Town Council had been to the Fine Lady appeal.

Banbury council has already given some guidance to the Bristol trust.

"People have been talking about a statue for some years now," Mr Steeds said.

The trust plans a sculpting contest to choose a design for the figure, but has already drawn up an early artist's impression of what it would look like.

Banbury town clerk Anne Greenway said persuading the Charity Commission to grant charitable status had been a three-year battle.

The Fine Lady committee was turned down twice before it was finally given charitable status in November 2003.

"When you have charitable status you are in a better position to get donations from businesses who can offset them against their tax liabilities.

"When individuals made donations through Gift Aid it allowed us to reclaim 28p in each pound from the Inland Revenue and various grants from trusts become available," she said.

"It gave the appeal a status that was otherwise missed."

The Fine Lady appeal was mentioned in the Charity Commission's annual report.

It noted: "In a review of (the initial] decision the commissioners accepted the Fine Lady on a White Horse Appeal as charitable on the grounds of trust for the enhancement of the locality and raising artistic taste… the commissioners' consideration of this case highlighted the need to clarify our approach to cases concerning statues and monuments."

John Bell, vice chairman of the appeal committee who was instrumental in the legal challenge, said: "We appear to have paved the way forward for others who wish to erect monuments everywhere."