PROCESSIONS

Artichoke Trust

A mass artwork celebrating 100 years of women voting, in Belfast, Cardiff, Edinburgh and London.

PROCESSIONS, 10 June, 2018.

What is PROCESSIONS?
PROCESSIONS was a vast mass participation public artwork that took place on 10th June 2018 in all four UK capitals, to celebrate 100 years of votes for women. The living portrait of women in the 21st century was based on the concept of a ‘human banner’ made up of women and girls, and those who identify as women or non-binary people. Tens of thousands of participants were given green, white or violet scarves – the colours of the suffragette movement – and walked in flowing bands of colour through the streets of Belfast, Cardiff, Edinburgh and London. 

PROCESSIONS was commissioned by 14-18 NOW, the UK’s arts programme for the WWI centenary, and based on an original idea by Darrell Vydelingum.

It was produced by the Artichoke Trust, 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 Wales Millennium Centre for Festival of Voice.

As part of the project, one hundred artists were commissioned to make banners for the processions, working with arts organisations and community groups around the UK – including female prisoners, members of Girlguiding and refugees.

Many more women made their own banners for the event, either on their own or at community banner-making workshops.

Historical background

On 6 February 1918, the Representation of the People Act gave the first British women the right to vote and stand for public office – specifically, women over 30 who owned property, or whose husbands did. It also extended the vote to all men over 21.

Historical background

Although the 1918 act only granted suffrage to a restricted category of women, the dam had been breached, and in 1928 the Equal Franchise Act finally gave women the same voting rights as men.

Extending the parliamentary franchise to women had been a contentious issue before 1918, with many women’s suffrage groups – most famously, the National Union for Women’s Suffrage Societies (NUWSS), led by Millicent Fawcett, and the Women’s Social & Political Union (WSPU), led by Emmeline Pankhurst – campaigning for decades for the right to vote.

Many of these brave suffragists and suffragettes were imprisoned for the cause, and suffered the pain and indignity of force-feeding following hunger strikes.

Their tireless demonstrating helped to reshape political opinion in the UK – as did WWI, which brought about a new-found appreciation for women’s capabilities as they took over traditional ‘male’ roles during wartime.

The PROCESSIONS banners
One hundred artists were commissioned to make 100 original centenary banners for PROCESSIONS, working with community organisations up and down the country. 

These included arts organisations, such as Crafts Council, Turner Contemporary and the Jerwood Gallery, as well as female prisoners (Clean Break), disabled women (DASH) and refugees (Scottish Refugee Council).

Together the banners represent and celebrate the diverse voices of British women and girls today.

The suffragettes made extensive use of handmade banners, flags and rosettes, so this was an important part of the PROCESSIONS artwork, and it also echoed the community spirit of the women’s suffrage movement.

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