……and you can buy a replica from Amazon for the teeny amount of £399 plus postage. The game was part of their array of merchandise, produced to ensure funding and spread the word. Just one of the many new facts I’m armed with after my unconventional visit to the cinema today.
I’m going to copy Prof Emma Rees, who opened her lecture with a list of what the talk wasn’t going to be. So here goes; this feature is not an in-depth summary of Emma’s engaging talk and it’s not a call to arms for modern-day Feminists or an attempt to drum up a leaning of any kind. It is however a light touch round up of what was discussed, with a smattering of my thoughts, and a celebration of this free series offering from Storyhouse.
Let’s start at the very beginning. I didn’t book a ticket. One of our writers could no longer attend and I stepped in at the last minute, without much of an idea of what I’d signed up for. It’s one of several recent Public Lecture events at Storyhouse without a price tag (though booking a ticket is essential) – The Suffragettes, a talk by Emma Rees, Professor of Literature and Gender Studies at the University of Chester. This event comes the day before the 100th anniversary of the act that allowed women (some, I’ll cover this later) to vote.
My limited dealings with the Suffragettes includes playing Emily Davidson in a school play (I only remember throwing myself in front of a boy dressed vaguely as a horse) and watching the 2015 film ‘Suffragette’ staring Carey Mulligan (it was alright). Emma dealt with the initial audio difficulties with charm and good humour. She ushered those hard of hearing to crowd in at the front and assured them, ‘Don’t worry, there’s no audience participation.’ And other than a request for questions at the end, she was true to her word. Emma took us on a brief but riveting tour of some of the women responsible for women’s right to vote – through all its iterations (in 1918 it was only educated women over thirty who owned property, among other clauses).
Emma was keen to illuminate women aside from the Pankhursts who played a role in our (ongoing) battle for equality, including those still arising from the woodwork, thanks to the work of dedicated historians, keen to unveil the lesser known heroes of the movement.
She also shed a little light on the exploits of the two Pankhurst sisters. It turns out Christabel wasn’t always on message when it came to all women being equal, and Sylvia continued to champion the cause commendably, despite being kicked out the WSPU by her family. Aptly, the final image on the slide was of Donald Trump, whist we looked toward the future and considered the obstacles ahead. Hissing ensued, naturally.
Anyway, despite my accidental presence and little previous knowledge, it was a truly fascinating hour. I also had the pleasure of meeting local writer Jan Bengree, who was commended during Emma’s talk for her play, Loud Hailers (performed at Chester Little Theatre in Nov 17). Jan’s play focuses on a real incident in 1912 outside Chester Town Hall, when Suffragette Mary Phillips flour-bombed the Prime Minister, Herbert Asquith (from Emma’s talk I can confirm it was well deserved, as would an actual bomb have been).
A friend of mine from Chester Writers (sat behind) also said hello, and revealed Emma Rees as one of her lecturers on her Gender Studies Degree. I was, and still am, jealous. As often happens when I find myself in front of a passionate, articulate speaker with something to teach me, my brain lights up and amongst the shame of how little I know, there’s a thirst for more information.
So I might just spend an afternoon or two learning a bit more about ‘The Match Girls’ and ‘Canary Girls’ and the women who suffered and battled so that I could cast my vote at the polling station. And then I might just keep my eye on this series, and sign up for the next one – Keep your Heart Pumping – and put my lunch breaks and brain to better use than internet shopping and another forgettable Netflix series.