We’re delighted to announce Women Making History, a new exhibition of more than 100 extraordinary banners made for PROCESSIONS, a 14-18 NOW commission, to mark 100 years of the first UK women getting the vote.
Emblazoned with the concerns of women across the UK, the banners are an inspiring reminder of the importance of feminist activism and the power of protest today.
In June 2018 tens of thousands of women embraced the idea of PROCESSIONS and joined us to create an unforgettable mass-participation artwork celebrating 100 years of votes for the first UK women. Three years on, Women Making History continues this legacy, providing an opportunity to reflect on the banners’ calls for equality, to examine the pace of progress and to be inspired to keep pushing for change.
Created by leading artists in collaboration with women’s groups across the UK, these vibrant artworks inspired by the banners of the suffrage movement, speak to the present and the future. Artists include Claudette Johnson, Sarah Maple, Sadie Williams and Vivienne Westwood.
This free, ticketed exhibition will take place from 2 June – 11 July 2021
at London Scottish House in Westminster.
Expressing concerns about gender-based violence, reproductive and economic rights, social exclusion, homophobia and trans allyship, the banners are a powerful reminder of the ongoing fight for gender equality.
Collectively they present a rallying cry for change epitomised by the banner created by Welsh collective HEXXX (pictured below). A powerful manifesto to the government written by women who have experienced gender-based violence, it calls on UK members of parliament to “acknowledge the existence of abuse: in public spaces, workplaces, schools, detention centres, within families, behind closed doors and on the streets” and provides a roadmap for meaningful change.
The exhibited banners display deeply personal stories of women and their communities. Tara Arts’ (London, England) banner (pictured below) used recycled saris donated by local women whilst Macrobert Arts Centre (Stirling, Scotland) incorporated one of their participants’ silk wedding dress in their design.
Many of the banners reference women’s integral contribution to local industries through their use of materials – Rowallane Community Hub’s (Ballynahinch, Northern Ireland) banner is made from a 100-year-old piece of linen made in Belfast’s linen factories, powered by female workers known as ‘Millies’, whilst the British Ceramics Biennial created hundreds of bone-china clay buttons in tribute to women’s contributions to the Potteries of Stoke-on-Trent.
Broadcaster and campaigner, June Sarpong, who worked on the BBC broadcast of PROCESSIONS, recalls in the volume that accompanies the exhibition:
“It was a particularly poignant day for me. I remember the magical sight of tens of thousands of women invading central London wearing purple, white and green scarves, many carrying beautiful handmade banners. As I was celebrating this historic milestone in equality, I couldn’t help but consider, in spite of a century passing, the many milestones we have yet to achieve in terms of career opportunities, reproductive choices and safety from exploitation and violence.”
Helen Marriage, Director of Artichoke, says:
“The banners in this exhibition were made and carried by participants in PROCESSIONS. They include calls for an end to male violence against women, an end to domestic abuse, and for reproductive and economic rights. Looking back at that day in 2018, I believe PROCESSIONS still has a unique resonance. For a few hours, women owned the streets. Our creative energy now more than ever needs to be expressed outside the walls of buildings.
Today, as we struggle to process recent events, we understand how far from real change we still are, and how the fear of male violence continues to shape and restrict women’s lives. The images of police holding handcuffed women mourners to the ground echoed those of suffragettes arrested for protesting women’s rights one hundred years ago. We are alarmed at the assault on civil rights passing through Parliament and efforts to curb our right to protest as citizens in a free society.
We may never duplicate the experience of PROCESSIONS, but we will continue to explore all the possibilities of public art. This exhibition aims to capture and encourage that spirit.”
The companion volume to the exhibition Women Making History, published by Artichoke and Profile Editions, is available to buy. Click here to order your copy. The book features full colour images of all the banners as well as new essays by inspiring women including Jenny Waldman, June Sarpong and Clare Hunter.
The banners are available to view remotely on Google Arts & Culture, and a special exhibition guide will be available to download on Bloomberg Connects from 27 May, a free digital guide to cultural organisations around the world. To download the Bloomberg Connects app, visit the Apple App or Google Play.
PROCESSIONS was commissioned by 14-18 NOW, the UK’s arts programme for the First World War centenary and produced by Artichoke. With support from the National Lottery through Arts Council England and the Heritage Lottery Fund, and from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.
PROCESSIONS Cardiff was produced by Artichoke in partnership with Festival of Voice and Wales Millennium Centre.