Our wonderful Centenary Cities Nottingham year of celebrating the 100th anniversary of some women getting the vote has now ended. The Year was organised and led by our 4 partner organisations – Nottingham City Council; Nottingham Women’s History Group; The Party Somewhere Else and Nottingham Women’s Centre. We held a celebration event on December 14th and have shared our reflections on the year and the event here.
As a partnership Centenary Cities Nottingham worked tremendously hard throughout 2018 to provide some fantastic and varied activities last year, with the aim of engaging women from all parts of the city, from all different walks of life, with varying interests and backgrounds. With our full-proof idea of having a themed approach to each of our activities (politics, art, history and community), I think it’s safe to say we succeeded….(if I do say so myself!).
As an organisation Nottingham City Council were pleased to lead on the more politically driven events over the past year. These included a Voter Registration drive in the city centre encouraging more women to register to vote, engagement with schools to educate our young people on the suffrage movement and the importance of voting, as well as a really great equalities discussion at the beginning of the year that included a fabulous panel of guests and some really insightful audience participation. It was really great to see so many people engaging with our events and expressing to us what the suffrage movement meant to them.
On a personal note, it was an absolute pleasure for me to get involved in the activities all throughout last year. Not just as an organiser, but as an attendee, learning more about the Suffrage movement, the role Nottingham played in the movement, as well as all of the hard work and determination it took from such brave women 100 years ago to get us to where we are today. I’m truly grateful to honour and celebrate them and I look forward to seeing what the future holds – role on 2028!
Letrice – Nottingham City Council
The Party Somewhere Else are an independent collective of maverick creatives who all happen to be women. Founded in 2017, they organise events that promote and showcase creative performance work led by women and non-binary artists. During 2018 The Party Somewhere Else worked with Centenary Cities Nottingham to create women-led empowering artistic events to celebrate 100 years of some women getting the vote. We held workshops and debates about voting rights and suffrage during our week-long festival at Nottingham Playhouse in March, which included the work of Katy Willoughby, creator of Emily Matters. We re-imagined plays from 100 years ago about suffrage as part of performances and workshops for the pupils at Trinity School. We commissioned a play from East Midlands writer Emily Holyoake about Helen Kirkpatrick Watts – Nottingham’s best known militant Suffragette. Finding her writing so rich, and relevant 100 years on, we decided to make the script into a film, full of wonderful Nottingham landmarks and Nottingham people. We premiered the film Your Daughter at the celebratory event and hope that this film continues the Suffragette legacy into 2019 and beyond.
AuROARa was commissioned by Centenary Cities to create a community project. We tied this in with Light Nights and sent a group of women (with thermals) out on a cold February evening to light up the night with Suffragette colours and song. Using the chants they took on the marches we walked through the street ending at the National Galleries of Justice. For the event AuROARa brought some of the songs from this event to encourage all to have their voice at the opening of the celebration.
Nikki – The Party Somewhere Else
Nottingham Women’s History Group had a busy but highly enjoyable year, holding or participating in events nearly every month. February, the centenary month of the Representation of the People Act 1918, was extremely busy. Group members were lucky enough to be invited to an event at Holme Pierrepont Hall, where they were celebrating their suffragette ancestor Georgina Brackenbury. Georgina was closely involved with the Pankhursts and, indeed, painted an iconic portrait of Emmeline Pankhurst which is on display in the National Portrait Gallery to this day. Then, on the 10thFebruary, Nottingham Women’s History Group held their commemorative gathering in the International Community Centre with speakers Cathy Hunt, an independent researcher and historian, and Krista Cowman, Professor of History at the University of Lincoln. The group also arranged a screening of the film Suffragette at Broadway Cinema. February also included a tour of a selection of art by women artists in Nottingham Castle Museum’s collections.
In March, two group members had a hand in producing Castle Rock’s Helen Watts beer – part of their Nottinghamians range of beers. We added juniper berries to a vast vat of mild to make a very tasty brew – we hope some of you managed to sample it when it was launched in April.
In the summer, NWHG held two re-enactments of the Great Suffragist Pilgrimage of 1913. At Pleasley, the vicar, Caroline Phillips, embraced the project with great enthusiasm and got the staff of the local primary school involved. We marched with 150 children to the church where the children entertained us with songs and poems on the suffrage theme. Another, longer, re-enactment march was held on 9 August. The end of August saw the group presenting a paper about these re-enactments at the 2018 Women’s History Network Conference in Portsmouth. The paper Women on the Move: The Suffrage Pilgrimage in Nottinghamshire 1913 was well received, and our colourful presentation and dress – in the suffragist colours or red, white and green – brightened everyone’s day.
For the final event of this important year, NWHG invited members of the Watts family to unveil a plaque to Nottingham Suffragette Helen Kirkpatrick Watts in the Arboretum on Friday the 14th December. The family had joined NWHG two years ago to help us plant a juniper tree in Helen’s memory, and returned to Nottingham for the plaque unveiling.
At times, organising these events had been tiring and rather stressful, but the end results were always so enjoyable and rewarding that we all agreed that each event had been well worth the effort. But Nottingham Women’s History Group is not taking a back seat in 2019! Rather, we are looking forward to exploring the effect the newly won vote and accompanying legislation, such as the Adult Education Act 1919 and the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act 1919, had on women, in terms of opening up educational opportunities and professions to women.
Sian from Nottingham Women’s History Group
At Nottingham Women’s Centre we saw the 2018 anniversary of suffrage for some women as an opportunity to engage with the Women of Nottingham today on the issues that are important to them, to hear their views and to support them around activism and being heard better by elected representatives.
As part of this work we held a number of focus groups with women which we use to inform our WoManifesto – Manifesto for Women for the 2019 local elections. We held an EqualiTeas event to bring women into the Centre to talk about their issues over tea and cake, we welcomed Parliament Outreach to the Centre to talk to women on how to engage with the many parts of parliament to be heard and bring about change. We supported the 2018 Reclaim the Night Nottingham to engage with and reach as many local women as possible as well as many other events.
We also created a number of small grants for other organisations to fund activities to engage more people in democracy.
Joanne – Nottingham Women’s Centre
Here is what some people who came along to our events had to say about Centenary Cities
It was such a great event and left me both with a sense of deep gratitude for everything we owe the suffragists and the women who came before us as well as fired up to break the barriers to equality that still exist. We truly stand on the shoulders of giants – and the celebration really brought that home.
The event was so well put together – I loved how there were so many different elements that really enabled us to celebrate and reflect in different ways, from the choir to Georgina’s poems. The film was especially poignant in communicating Nottingham’s pride in Helen Watts, who should be celebrated as one of our greatest local heroes. As a legacy from this year, I’d love for us to get to a point where people in Nottingham know Helen Watts like they know Robin Hood, Byron, Brian Clough and George Green!
I attended two events as part of the celebration – the debate at Bromley House library and the end-of-year party. I enjoyed both – the debate featured some great speakers making excellent points for both sides (although I sided against the house for the final count) and the celebration event was a powerhouse of entertainment. I always love to hear local poets, and the short film was very enjoyable. In particular it was a lovely surprise for me to see my cousin’s choir performing!
As for the future, my hope is that the next hundred years sees politicians stop behaving like they are in a Victorian gentlemens’ club, and that men and women work together to create more equal opportunities at every level of our society.
Fantastic evening, Thank you! Loved Georgina’s poems and the film and the choir were wonderful (best £300 worth of funding ever!)
Thanks for a great evening. I am inspired by the choir, the poetry, the film and all the fabulous events you have organised.
What a year! Here’s to 2028! 10 years and universal suffrage! Fantastic!
And due to popular demand here is the poem written by the Nottingham Young Poet Laureate Georgina Wilding and performed at our event in December