Guest post by Claire Moore
So many women fought for our right to vote and yet statues and tributes to these formidable women are too few and far between. With the centenary of the Representation of the People Act 1918 approaching, which gave SOME women the vote for the first time (women over the age of 30 who met a property qualification) suffragettes’ achievements are swimming into public focus.
As a company specialising in producing only original work, Certain Curtain Theatre seeks to tell some of the history of the suffrage movement through the eyes and life of our very own Preston Suffragette Mrs Edith Rigby. Exploring Edith’s life has been a fascinating journey. From an early age she saw the inequalities of rich and poor, of boys and girls and tried to make a difference. Her story remains largely unsung but her journey from a girl who wanted equality through peaceful suffragist to militant is a fascinating one.
She is best known for burning down Lord Leverhulme’s hunting cottage in Rivington – But she was a woman of ‘firsts.’ She was the first woman, in Preston, to ride a bicycle – in bloomers! – Much to the horror of onlookers – even her vicar – who feared for her very soul. She founded Preston’s first branch of ‘The Women’s Social and Political Union’ and a branch of The Women’s Institute. She was one of the first members of the Independent Labour Party (from which she was later expelled!) She became friends with ‘notorious’ Suffragette, Christabel Pankhurst and joined the ‘suffrage movement’, where her exploits became the stuff of legend. Jailed, at least six times, for ‘terrorist attacks’, her litany of crimes, is almost beyond belief; vandalising Lord Derby’s statue with tar, bombing the Liverpool Cotton Exchange, burning down a wealthy man’s hunting lodge – even the storming of Parliament itself! – And much, much more! This outrageous, extraordinary woman’s life led to her being shunned by neighbours but her fiery spirit was not easily dampened. Her story and the wider suffragette struggle is one worth sharing and I hope audiences agree that theatre is an excellent way to do this.
WOMAN ON FIRE, an original play, will premiere at The Edinburgh Festival Fringe this August 4-12, 14-26 at Venue 36 The Space on North Bridge, in an intimate theatre space created just for the festival. With only 50 minutes to tell the story we aim to take our audiences back in time to experience one suffragette’s fiery journey fighting for women’s right to vote – opening a window into the past and hopefully reminding audiences of or indeed introducing audiences to the tenacity of our foremothers. I am hoping we can generate enough support and interest to further develop the play and tour it during the Vote 100 celebrations next year.
Ruthless terrorist or impassioned freedom fighter? If you’re visiting Edinburgh this August, you decide. Book tickets from only £6
I hope WOMAN ON FIRE will light a fire in all who watch to fight for what they believe in.
Claire Moore is Co-founder of Certain Curtain Theatre Company – a professional touring theatre company based in Preston, Lancashire – established in 1989 to create dynamic original theatre. The company writes and produces productions about many social and human rights issues and has been at the forefront of domestic violence theatre since 1995. http://www.cctheatre.co.uk Claire is @cctheatreco on twitter and you can follow the play which has its own account here @mrsedithRigby