Monday 15 April 2019

Rise Up Women!

Last week I was restrained by a policeman as I wielded a bat ready to damage the nearest object. I was proudly wearing a purple green and white sash that said 'Rise Up Women', while the likes of L7 and Pussy Riot blasted the air. I did this dressed as a respectable Edwardian woman in front of a crowd of onlookers who did nothing to stop me. In fact they cheered me on.

The onlookers were enthusiastic artists and I was their model for a very special drink and draw night held in Bury to celebrate the Suffragette movement with Riot Grrrl spirit!

The night consisted of a great DJ set by artist and collaborator Lee Crocker all themed around female empowerment and struggle. There were prizes for outstanding drawings and of course a beer or three downed throughout the evening. 

 The poses for the night took on a loose narrative following me as I plotted deeds, not words, including the vandalism of art work at Manchester Art Gallery in order to draw attention to the suffragette cause. In reality the three women who carried out this act used tiny toffee hammers which could be easily concealed, but for visual purposes I went with a regular hammer and swung it like a baseball player!

This was inevitably followed by my arrest

There were some great images created and it was hard to pick the winning drawings at the end of each section

Posing as a Suffragette was so much fun, and coincidentally, it was only recently I visited the Pankhurst Centre in Manchester to see for myself where the Suffragette movement was born. 

Walking through the heavy built up hospital complex off Oxford Road I was sure I was heading in the wrong direction, that is until I spotted what looked like a mirage. A single Edwardian house complete with cherry blossom and picket fence standing defiant to its steel and glass surroundings.

Looking around the tiny yet comprehensive museum area and reconstructed parlour it was really moving to be in the very surroundings that Emmeline Pankhurst had lived and campaigned. I am happy to say my Manchester Suffragette temporary tattoos are currently available at the Pankhurst Centre's shop and in buying them you will be helping to support not only the museum but the important work the centre does to aid women today running Manchester Women's Aid, Manchester's largest specialist provider of domestic abuse services

I couldn't believe the centre receives no major funding even as a site of national significance and is still waiting to be recognised for a brown sign. It seems women's history and continuing stories are rarely given the platform they deserve.

With this in mind, I felt incredibly proud to honour those women who'd come before and risked everything for liberty and equality. Even with the laughs and party atmosphere at the Riot Grrrl drawing event, it felt poignant to be representing the Suffragettes, especially as a Mancunian. I can't lie, at times I felt quite emotional and with lyrics like those of Change by Mavis Staples setting the tone how could I not?

What good is freedom
If we haven't learned to be free
(If we haven't learned to be free?)
What good is freedom
If we haven't learned to be free?
If we haven't learned to be free
Day after day, year after year
We're gonna change around here

X is the letter
Blue is the color
One is the number
Now is the time
Can we change around here
Gotta change around here
Say it loud, say it clear
We gotta change around here

Our Riot Grrrl night was really uplifting and bursting with creativity. I'm pleased to say we got some brilliant feedback from the attendees and you can see more photos and drawings from the event on my facebook page HERE

Rise up women!