Guest blog: Amy Stone, Cultural Engagement Officer (Suffrage in Egham Project), Egham Museum
The ‘Suffrage in Egham’ project aimed to uncover the local impact of the suffrage movement and the affect it had on ordinary people in Egham over 100 years ago. Royal Holloway, University of London and Egham Town Team have partnered on this varied and community-focussed project.
The research, completed by an intern and a team of volunteers, has been the basis for the co-curated exhibition held at the United Church, Egham from Monday 11th June until Saturday 16th June which can now be found at the Egham Museum until November.
Our research was focussed around local newspapers and key individuals. We also wanted to highlight the difference between Suffragists, who were campaigning for women’s rights and their more militant (and much more well-known) counterparts, the Suffragettes. Although Egham did see some Suffragette action, most notably an arson at a house in Englefield Green, it was also home to two branches of the NUWSS (National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies) or Suffragists.
This research then fed directly into our ‘History Through the Arts’ programme which aimed to engage local people in the history of the suffrage movement through varied arts and craft activities aimed at visitors of all ages.
Some highlights of the programme have been ‘Suffrage Moves!’ which was part of the international drawing festival the “Big Draw”. The theme was Living Lines so we hosted a digital animation workshop where children created their own short film. The outcome was a short stop-motion film about the life of Isabel Cowe, a lady who was arrested in Egham for riding her bicycle on the pavement while taking part in a national Suffragist pilgrimage. This Suffrage Moves film can be found here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O0NIMFLGrdk&t.
For the adults, we have taken part in the “Museums at Night” initiative and hosted art workshops in the evening for people to learn new skills. So far we have held lino printing and screen printing; stay tuned to our website eghammuseum.org for our next workshops which will be held in October 2018.
As well as the suffrage-themed events which were open to the public, we worked closely with local Girl Guiding groups. From suffrage-inspired bunting to museum sleepovers and debates, we held a variety of sessions with local young people.
Another aspect of the project has been our partnership with Royal Holloway University of London, working on three artistic commissions. One of the commissioned artists, Paula Doyle, has produced three textiles panels depicting the life of Emily Wilding Davison. A well-known Suffragette, Emily Wilding Davison, who attended Royal Holloway, became a martyr for the cause after being hit by the King’s horse at the Epsom Derby in 1913. These panels will be displayed in the Emily Wilding Davison library at Royal Holloway as a legacy of the project. We also hosted some of the Royal Holloway “Play Festival” participants who performed during our exhibition week, as part of the second commission. Our final commission is Samantha Fernando, who has been working on a music piece inspired by the suffrage movement. This will be performed by the Royal Holloway Symphony Orchestra in December 2018.
We have also launched a brand new “Visit Egham” website which will bring together all of the activities and events happening in Egham in one place. The site is now live at http://visit-egham.uk/
Our Suffrage in Egham website (suffrage.eghammuseum.org) is to be a lasting legacy of the project and hosts useful information about the suffrage movement in Egham, links, images, films, resources and inspiration for your own Suffrage-related events to mark the centenary as we move through the year.
The Exhibition is now up in the Egham Museum until November. We are open Tuesday and Thursday 10.00 – 4.30 and Saturday 10.30-12.30.