Pankhurst Centre should be “a place of resistance… and raging against patriarchy”
| 23rd January 2018
A new sculpture of Emmeline Pankhurst has been unveiled by actress Julie Hesmondhalgh – to launch the centenary year of the first women achieving the right to vote in the UK.
The Pankhurst Trust held their sold-out Centenary Launch Party at Emmeline’s former home, 62 Nelson Street, Manchester, where the fight for women’s rights started with the militant suffragettes.
Julie, founder of Manchester-based political theatre collective Take Back Theatre, said: “I’m very proud to be here tonight, celebrating the wonderful Pankhurst Centre, which is a huge part of not just Manchester’s but Britain’s radical and social history.
“Here is where the first meeting of the Women’s Political and Social Union took place in 1903 – 2018 is the Year of the Woman and our chance to make a difference.
“What we want to do is put the Pankhurst Centre on the map and turn it into the internationally recognised museum that it deserves to be, marking the achievements of all those who fought for gender equality.
“a tribute to all women who fought, and continue to fight, for a better and fairer world”
“This place must be a place that celebrates the past but it must also look to the future. We have so much more work to do. In a world where FGM (female genital mutilation) still happens, where sexual assault and domestic violence is on the rise, where our reproductive rights are constantly under siege, where the gender pay gap still gapes.
“This should be a place for remembering and honouring the past. But it should also be a place of resistance, of refuge, of radicalism, of raging against the patriarchy, a place where women of all backgrounds can work together for lasting equality.
“This sculpture will live at the Pankhurst Centre as a tribute to all women who fought, and continue to fight, for a better and fairer world. We can use the long and arduous and successful battle of the suffragettes to continue to inspire us.”
Sculptor Jane Robbins said: “It is an honour to have been asked to do this. I am a Northerner. I am female. I am in a very male-dominated career and I was chuffed to be able to make a sculpture that I felt was missing.
“I know there is going to be a big statue of her in Manchester but people can come and see this, and get up close. They can have an image of Emmeline, who had a fascinating face.
“She was a beautiful woman and I chose to depict her after her prison stays because I felt there was a lot of photographs when you Google her, that show her as a young woman on a chair. But there were not many images of her post prison.
“I have given her a look that is slightly older … I hope she conveys the pain she went through, the suffering she went through and the hard bloody work she went through to achieve what she achieved. I hope it is in her eyes and in her face. She is a woman who has been through some stuff.”
Photographs by Elspeth Moore.
Friends of Wythenshawe Hall – Mo Harrap, Ingrid Holden, Libby Edwards, Glenys Mercer and Alison Thompson – came dressed as suffragettes and sang during the event.
Ingrid said: “About three or four years ago one of the friends wanted to do something about Emmeline Pankhurst. I didn’t know much about her at the time but Mo has made us absolutely fascinated and now we do as much as we can for suffragettes.”
Wythenshawe Hall, a 16th century Tudor mansion, was partially destroyed by fire on 16 March 2016. At its peak 50 firefighters tackled the blaze.
“The main part of the building and the drawing room was badly damaged. But with the help of Manchester City Council, and the Heritage Lottery Fund, it will be rebuilt and open again hopefully by May 2019.
“The Friends, who are all volunteers, used to have an open day every month, which is all free, and we put suffragette events on. We sang the song. We did Tudor events and Victorian classrooms.”
The Pankhurst centre Centenary Launch Party, held in collaboration with Girl Gang Manchester, also featured a showcase of empowering T-shirts by Everything’s Sweet Threads with the launch of a limited edition design marking the centenary year.
A limited edition T-shirt by Manchester designers Everything’s Sweet Threads was revealed for the first time on the catwalk. The label is known for its ultra hip line of ‘solitaritees’ has brought its own brand of politically inspired cool to mark the centenary year with a specially designed Deeds Not Words design – and The Pankhurst Trust will receive 10% of the sale of each T-shirt across its range.
Gail Heath, Chief Executive of the Pankhurst Trust, said: “One of the most special aspects of the 2018 centenary, is the amazing support that we’re receiving and the opportunity it is giving us to work with wonderfully talented and creative people such as Jane Robbins and Al and Gerry from Everything’s Sweet Threads.
“It was fantastic to partner with Girl Gang Manchester for our launch event which was a fitting start to a year that will mark the achievements and stories of women of the past and present, as well as looking to the future, as we continue to play our role in the quest for female equality. We were delighted to be joined by Julie Hesmondhalgh, whose support for the Pankhurst Trust means so much to us and whose words lit up the evening.”
Photographs by Elspeth Moore
Forthcoming events include:
Dr Helen Pankhurst’s Open House Party & Book Launch, Tuesday 6 February 5pm-10pm.
Women’s Words on Manchester exhibition at Manchester Central Library, February – 30 April
International Women’s Day Charity Film Screening of Suffragette starring Carey Mulligan, Helena Bonham Carter, Brendan Gleeson, Anne-Marie Duff, Ben Whishaw, and Meryl Streep (see trailer above) at the Whitworth Art Gallery Thursday 8 March 6-9pm
Deeds Not Words Art Exhibition at the Grosvenor Gallery Friday 4 May
Museums At Night 16-19 May – a special late night opening at the Pankhurst Centre.
The Pankhurst Trust at the Greater Manchester Run Sunday 20 May
Manchester Day Parade Sunday 17 June
The Pankhurst Garden at RHS Tatton Park Flower Show 18-22 July
Heritage Open Days at the Pankhurst Centre 13-16 September
Suffrage Celebration Event at the People’s History Museum Thursday 11 October
End of Year Celebration Party Wednesday 21 November – to celebrate the centenary of the Parliament (Qualification of Women) Act 1918