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Centenary of Female Suffrage: how is Manchester marking the anniversary?

January 16, 2018 Arts, Blogs, It's Not Grim Up North Comments Off on Centenary of Female Suffrage: how is Manchester marking the anniversary?
Contact Young Company - She Bangs The Drums - image by Benji Reid - Museum of Science & Industry

2018 is a significant year for Manchester. The birthplace of the suffragette movement, founded by Emmeline Pankhurst in 1903 at her family home just off Oxford Road, the city holds a prominent – and proud – place in political history.

So, to mark 100 years of the Representation of the People Act (1918), which gave women over the age of 30 the right to vote (although there were qualifying conditions, including being a property owner), Manchester is preparing to celebrate all the incredible women who fought for women’s rights. From feminist takeovers at art galleries, explorations of the role of women in sport, conferences and daring theatre projects, the city certainly knows how to mark an occasion.

What’s on? 

Women Rule Manchester #2 - People's History MuseumFirst up, the brilliant Wonder Women festival is back this March. Billed as the most exciting edition yet, Manchester’s city-wide feminist festival is packed full of exhibitions, tours, debates and performances alongside one-off screenings and conferences. Organised by the People’s History Museum, and made possible by money raised by National Lottery players, the festival features many of Manchester’s galleries, museums and venues and seeks to not only highlight the role the city played in the fight for women’s rights, but also question what it means for women living here today.

Fans of female collective Girl Gang Manchester might be interested in Women Rule Mcr #2 (March 11, from £5). This team of female ‘artists, creatives, thinkers and do-ers’ have produced a continually evolving interview and live performance project capturing the diversity and lives of Manchester women, their experience of living in the city and their hopes for its future. They’re also collaborating with The Pankhurst Centre and kicking off 2018 with a house party at 62 Nelson Street to launch the centenary (Jan 22, ‘pay as you feel’).

If you’re a fan of The Pankhurst Centre, or fancy checking it out, what better introduction than an invite to the open house party and book launch for Dr Helen Pankhurst’s new book? Dr Pankhurst will be speaking to guests and signing copies of Deeds Not Words at the house where the first meeting of the suffragettes – led by her great-grandmother, her grandmother Sylvia Pankhurst, and great aunts Christabel and Adela Pankhurst – took place (Feb 6, donations).

Feminism and Museums Live! - People's History MuseumThe city’s museums are going all out with a stellar line-up of interesting exhibitions with The People’s History Museum, located on Manchester’s Leftbank, leading the way. Events include the Annual Banner Changeover 2018 (Jan 20, 2018 – Jan 6, 2019). The museum holds the world’s largest collection of political and trade union banners and this year it will take on added significance as the selection chosen reflects the themes of the centenary, featuring banners that have played a part in the campaigns and protests in Represent! 100 Years On (free entry).

The Ongoing Nakba - People's History MuseumThe People’s History Museum is going all out for this year’s International Women’s Day on March 8 with a host of great exhibitions including the Wonder Women 2018 Guided Tour (free), which invites visitors to learn about the lives of women who campaigned for equality over the last two centuries in a special guided tour of the museum; The Ongoing Nakba (no booking required, free) where you can hear the stories of refugee women of Palestine talking about the 1948 exodus (the Nakba) to today, through poetry, testimonies, film and photographs; and Women: Know Your Place! where BBC Radio Manchester presents a live panel discussion broadcast from the museum to mark IWD (free). There’s also a day of talks, film and performance and creative workshops with The Drama of the Suffragette Movement (March 10, £5 – 10.00).

Women - Know Your Place! - Peoples History MuseumArt lover? Celebrate the launch of Wonder Women 2018 with a feminist takeover at Manchester Art Gallery (March 1, free), inspired by the Manchester-born artist and feminist campaigner, Annie Swynnerton. A fantastic way to kick off proceedings.

Fancy coming together with a load of lovely folk for a special event? Why not head to one of the following? Generations of Activism at the People’s History Museum (March 23, free) where you can join with women of all ages and backgrounds for a day of conversation and banner making based around the Feminist Webs Archive; Feminism and Museums Live! (March 24, free), also at the People’s History Museum, where you can take part in a discussion with researcher, writer, curator and artist Dr Jenna C Ashton about how museums are responding to the many challenges faced by women and girls around the world today; or head to the Museum of Science and Industry in Castlefield for In Conversation: Women in STEM (March 8, free) for an exciting event marking both International Women’s Day and British Science Week.

Wonder WomenNext up is the 3rd Women in Media Conference (March 3-4, from £9) at the People’s History Museum. This two-day conference explores the role of women in the media, offers handy tips and generally looks like a wonderful place to meet like-minded lady folk in the industry. Another, slightly pricier, conference is Upfront and Onside: the Women’s Football Conference at the National Football Museum (8–9 March 2018, from £50-80). Another two-day event bringing leading academics from across the field.

If you’re a fan of the beautiful game, the National Football Museum is also holding a free event, Unlocking the Hidden History of Women’s Football (March 19) where experts at the Manchester museum explores the sport’s difficult past and what’s in store for the future.

But wait, there’s more.

Suffragette Charity Screening - Pankhurst Centre at The WhitworthNew Manchester Walks is hosting The Pankhurst’s: Suffragette City Tour (March 10) where they’ve ‘unearthed the most astonishing stories connected with the Manchester family that women the vote’; Quarry Bank in Cheshire is launching Lost Voices (March 3, free), a series of installations aiming to recapture the lost voices of the many women who were still denied the vote following the Representation of the People Act; and Contact Young Company presents She Bangs The Drums (March 10, £7-13) at the Museum of Science and Industry.

And if all that’s not enough, don’t miss a special charity film screening of Suffragette (2015) at The Whitworth (March 8, £21.55). The event will be presented by The Pankhurst Trust and The Village Green, and will be followed by a wine tasting reception – what’s not to love?

After all, it was in Manchester, in a house just off Oxford Road, that the Suffragette movement first began.

By Emma Yates-Badley

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