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Posted 24.05.18

100 years: Banner workshops create a living portrait of 21st century women

By Sarah Packer

Fabric book work by Processions participant Ali Roscoe, from the team at Storylines.

It’s been 100 years since some, but not all, women were given the right to vote and there is still so much more to do - the struggle for women’s equality continues.

What does your vote mean to you today?
We're excited to be partnering with PROCESSIONS 2018 for a mass participation artwork marking this historic moment, a living portrait of women in the 21st century.

Across the UK, women have come together for workshops, led by selected artists, to design and create celebratory banners ready for a march through Belfast, Cardiff, Edinburgh and London on Sunday 10 June. Wearing either green, white or violet, the colours of the suffrage movement, the processions will appear as a flowing river of colour through the city streets.

In Plymouth, artist Elizabeth Masterton has been leading our banner workshops. She was assisted by two MA students Emily Kemp and Caroline Wilkins and collaborated with a group of about 15 women from Plymouth and beyond. The workshop series kickstarted with a field trip to Smeatons Tower, which the Suffragettes attempted to blow up with a homemade bomb marked ‘Votes for Women: Death in 10 minutes’ in 1912.

Whilst at the tower participants wrote messages to Theresa May on day-glo placards to create a multi-issue mini march. The march led them to Union Corner, a community space in Union Street (known for its annual street party) set up by Nudge Community Builders for the Stonehouse community. The trip also saw Phil Davey, Labour councillor for Stoke speaking about her experiences as a woman in an elected position.

“It has been a real treat to meet so many lovely women and feel inspired by their stories and creativity.” — Processions 2018 workshop participant

In the following workshops, the group talked about their our own textile histories, sharing personal objects and stories relating to the experience of womanhood through the generations. They also brainstormed slogans for the banner, whilst using Plymouth College of Art’s printing studios to experiment with block print type.

Most recently, they held a making workshop with students from Plymouth School of Creative Arts, debating issues affecting young women and how we could change things for the better in the future; the students started making flags which will accompany the banner at the London march.

The group have discussed their histories and personal experiences of gender inequality.

We asked some of the participants in the Plymouth workshops what the vote means to them:

“To me, it's normal that I can vote as an adult (not as a man or a woman). Though here in the UK I can only vote at council elections, not at general elections, because I'm not a British Citizen. I've been here 22 years, but it's always been too expensive to gain citizenship.”

“I have an opportunity and an obligation to speak out on issues that concern me. My vote counts and I can use it to influence the actions of political parties.”

“The vote means that I have a voice as do my daughters, it means that in one term at least I am equal and feel empowered when I put that cross on a tiny white piece of paper. A small action with huge consequences.”

We also asked what they’ve found in the workshops that is new or surprising:

“That Plymouth has a suffragette history, the difference between Suffragettes and Suffragists, and that I have no fear of marching with a placard through my town!”

“I learned about the suffragettes and their movements, and what suffrage actually means. I'm not always confident to have creative or valuable ideas, but it was great to be encouraged, and have my own banner positively commented on.”

“The workshops have provided a forum for working on something creative and exchanging views and ideas and having a sense of community with fellow women.”


Find out more and get involved at processions.co.uk

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