Our immersive drama and art project explored the visual legacy of local suffragists and suffragettes and how this contributed to the use of strong images by women war artists in World War One.

The project took as its starting point the banners and symbolism developed by poorly educated women workers to promote their fight for pay and representation and how this visual message was taken up by suffrage campaigners.

Working with community groups and volunteers of all ages, the project concentrated on the local stories and imagery of women at a time of rapid social change. We explored the visual culture of the past to interpret the contemporary use of branding and image.

Local groups used research to unearth female experience in the area. For example, a petition requesting that Chesterfield Library kept a copy of 'The Common Cause' in the Ladies' Reading Room, allowed us to find the names and backgrounds of women whose involvement with the fight for the vote had previously gone unrecorded.

This information was then used as the basis of the play, Not Words. Performed in and around the area, the play was seen by very disparate groups of people giving them understanding of the involvement of local women in a national campaign.

The Pomegranate Youth Theatre and Gekkota Arts, Chesterfield have received a National Lottery grant of £26,300 from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) for the implementation and recording of this project.

Made possible by money raised by National Lottery players.

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The Radio Play

Not Words - Part one
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Not Words - Part Two
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The Stage Play

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This painting by Jane Kinsella was used as a prop during the performance of 'Not Words

 

Exhibition

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Lillian’s work as war artist fits closely with my practice as a political artist, I responded to the play with my own images of contemporary warfare. The top images shows oils wells in Iraq. My second image shows American soldiers protecting opium poppies in Afghanistan.
Jane Kinsella - Artist


 
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The embroiders guild attended a workshop which was inspired by the work of Flora Lions Women's Canteen at Phoenix Works, Bradford. Women filled the places of the munitions workers who had gone to the front line. For many women it was their first experience working outside the home it gave Women a wage packet and arguably it was the work contribution that convinced the government to give Women the vote.
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“History is a Stone’s Throw Away”  Bella Milroy, 2018

Triptych of A1 photographs

 

Based on the demonstration of Winifred Jones’ heroic action in throwing a stone through the window of the Palace Theatre, a number of workshops were developed by artist Bella Milroy that focused on this particular feat of activism. Milroy wanted to hone in on this defiant image of the fist in protest by working with workshop participants to discover their own individual form of everyday activism.

 

Participants were asked to consider this violent but necessary act of the Suffragettes, and apply that sense of urgency for change, a call to arms, to their own lives. The artist worked with people from a number of different backgrounds and ages, including youth groups and mental health groups. Participants were asked to think as ambitiously or as small scale as they liked, but were encouraged to approach their own personal concept of activism in a meaningful and thoughtful way. Some thought of events in their personal lives like campaigning for better education for deaf children in schools. Others thought of contemporary matters of significance like sexual consent, the importance of social media in enacting change in real life, and issues surrounding LGBTQ+. The everyday potential for change on a larger scale also came through in the workshops in themes of food waste, parking spaces and simple creative pursuits like music, dance and cartoon animation.

 

Milroy then used the power of the fist as a visual translation of each participant’s experience; capturing their own personal, powerful protest in a single image.

 

“History is a Stone’s Throw Away” is a quote taken from a piece of work in response to the activism of Winifred Jones, and was made during one of the workshops by a member of the Green Barrows Mental Health group.

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The Women’s Labour group attended a workshop that was based on the war artist Violette Rougier Lecoq. The images are of the Suffrage movement, the top two images are of the very first surveillance photographs ever taken as women were being released from prison. The bottom images are of a Suffragette protesting and a line of policemen arresting demonstrating Suffragettes.
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Sketching during the Performances

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Artwork from the workshops

Reasearch  Workshops

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Art Workshops

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Publicity

Image and Poster design by Kelly Bond - 13 Bends design

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Link to Derbyshire Times Article
 https://www.derbyshiretimes.co.uk/.../not-words-arts-project-celebrating-right-to-vote-...

 

Evaluation

"I learned more about the kind of records which are held in the Derbyshire archive."

"I learnt quite a lot about the suffrage movement locally. "

"I didn’t realise they were ANY women war artists let alone a local one! Although I did already realise how important war artists were during WW1 to enable people at home to understand the horrors that were going on in the trenches."

 "What was very interesting was the relationship between the mistress and her maid and how they both wanted the same development in women’s rights for different reasons. Loved the use of computer enabled art to illustrate what the artist was drawing. "

 

"All in all, a very powerful piece of theatre."

"It was good to learn about the experiences of women from different parts of society and how they contributed/were affected by the Suffrage movement. I also learned about the role of women war artists."

"I really enjoyed the performance and felt it was successful in both entertaining and informing."

"Built on previous knowledge of suffrage, I didnt know how much of an important role Art was in these womens lives."

"The acting (all three ladies - captivating performances), the storyline (interesting, informative, covering range of emotions), the digital artist (talented, brilliant use of technology to support live performance), the music (original score). Very much enjoyed it"