20 July 2018 Word from the Equalitea Party Event – Saturday 30 June 2018
It’s an unseasonably hot summer’s day in England but this homespun Equalitea Party kicks off in the blaring sun at 2.30pm with marquees at the ready, despite the blustery wind.
I joined one of the many Equaliteas events held around the country, 18 June – 22 July, to honour the heroines and heroes of the suffragette and suffragist movements – who fought for equality and Women’s Right to Vote. Celebrating the 100th anniversary of the suffragette movement, and the 90th year of the passing of the People Act 1928 which gave women 30 and over (yep there was still work to do) and all men 21 and over (some men were previously excluded), equal right to vote – along with men of 19 and over in the armed forces.
It’s unlike me not to capture fascinating facts like the storyboard of local Croydon suffragettes but I didn’t [*then had to play catch up]. Three I’ve now been introduced to by the extremely obliging Eunice O’Dame are:
- Mary Pearson – 1908 Women’s Freedom League
- Mrs Dempsey – 1908 Women’s Freedom League
- Marion Holmes (above) – President of Croydon’s chapter of the Women’s Social and Political Movement.
- Read more about them here.
These women have since been followed by Catherine Gowers Kettle – 1961 (Croydon’s First female Mayor), Mary Walker – 1994 (First woman leader of the Council), Sarah Jones – 2017 (first Woman MP for Croydon) and Eunice o’Dame – 2018 (who I mention later).
I was remiss, no pictures at all of the delectable home-made food laid out on fold out tables the length of the hall – wheat-free, vegetarian sausages rolls (yeah I know but they were actually delicious), a variety of cakes and cut sandwiches, and tea of course. So Tea Party… so delightful. Imagine a light, golden, Victoria Sponge bulging with layers of fresh cream and strawberries – that captured my immediate attention – powdering my top lip with icing sugar. I walked round like that for the rest of the day. Yep, not a single word from anyone – English sensibilities eh? I’ll never get use to that. I did wonder whether it might’ve been misconstrued for something else!!?
As ever, it was me and last minute wardrobe decisions and with a suffragette theme beckoning I had to think, fast. Apparently, there was more than one colour scheme for the women’s suffrage movement – the more well-known in the UK being purple (denotes the royal blood in the vein of every suffragette), white (purity …of cause I like to think) and green (colour of hope and emblem of spring). Whereas in the U.S. a slight adaption turned white to gold. A quick trip to John Lewis for ribbon which I tied round my neck on the day and et voila, that shit was sorted.
So there were speeches by local politicians and a Mayor, you can imagine, two of whom including the Mayor were women – Yay, taking the baton forward! I was lucky to meet one of the newest arrivals, the effusive Eunice O’Dame who is the Labour Party’s selected first black, and female, candidate to stand in North Shirley. A massive achievement! Especially when you consider the extra layer of disadvantage women can face with regard to race, ethnicity, religion and sexuality. Intersectionality.
But today, all these women were here making determined strides and keeping the Croydon suffragette spirit alive!
We learned more about a valuable community-led project – which I vowed to remember then promptly forgot the name of, then vowed to find out about – started by Donna Murray-Turner called ‘Another Night of Sisterhood’ (ANOS) to support young people and women, facing social issues like knife crime and exploitation.
Fortunately, the very lovely and talented Alison O’Melia, a local multi-instrumentalist joined me with her accordion on one of my aptly titled songs, “Revolution”. We got together the week before to learn a few tunes from the suffragette period like Rise up Women, Shoulder to Shoulder and Forward Sister Women.
Alison did all the research I have to say. The songs are a combination of suffragette inspired lyrics – highlighting the cause – sung to well-known tunes of the time. It’s a simple and very effective way of getting everyone on board for a sing-a-long – it’s easy when you know the tune. So we tried. Out came the lyrics sheets which I handed around wondering if anyone would join in… and yes they did, and loved it.
[Thanks to Alison O’Melia and Leila Ben-Hassel for pictures, along with Christina Brandenburg, and the Croydon North Labour group – who invited me to perform – credit for your effort, and putting on a lovely event.]
[*UPDATED: 15.08.18 and 31.08.18 to include Croydon suffragists, the ANOS project and other stuff]