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Cathy Power TYOK Blue Plaques manager
Photograph: Scott Chasserot

Things you only know if you’re a blue plaques manager

Written by
James FitzGerald

…according to Cathy Power, 59.

It’s not just white blokes on blue plaques

Men have dominated English Heritage blue plaques for their 150-year history, and we’re trying hard for women and others under-represented by the scheme to be nominated. Everybody knows London has a plaque for Mozart. Not as many know there’s a plaque for Stella Isaacs, Lady Reading, who led a voluntary army of more than a million women in WWII.

Most plaques you see aren’t put up by English Heritage

There are numerous other plaque schemes, including in London, but I don’t think they muddy the waters. We only put up around 12 plaques a year and there are lots of local stories, so we can’t cover them all – and it’s nice to see others inspired by the idea. But I do think there has to be a reason behind a plaque.

The scheme needs your suggestions

It must be a remarkable person who’s been dead for at least 20 years, and there has to be a surviving building from their lifetime to put the plaque on. It doesn’t matter if that’s a grand building in town or something modest in the suburbs. So if you’re in Havering, where there aren’t any blue plaques yet, send us your ideas!

There’s a lot of disagreement over who gets a plaque

Our panel has had some robust debates. Divisive figures can prove difficult. Historians are always teasing out new things about a person, so their reputation can go up and down. If the panel can’t agree on someone, we turn them down and look again in ten years.

See the newest blue plaque, for botanist Agnes Arber, at 9 Elsworthy Terrace near Primrose Hill from November 1.

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