The group from Margate in full costume with their banner, with artist Jessica Voorsanger in Hyde Park
On Sunday 10 June, a group of over 20 women travelled from Margate to London to take part in PROCESSIONS, a celebratory mass participation artwork. On the day, 100,000 participants in Belfast, Cardiff, Edinburgh and London walked together dressed in the suffragettes’ colours of purple, green and white to celebrate 100 years of women being able to vote.
PROCESSIONS was commissioned by 14-18 NOW, the UK’s arts programme for the First World War centenary and produced by Artichoke.
In the two months leading up to PROCESSIONS, Turner Contemporary’s Learning Officer Molly Molloy worked with artist Jessica Voorsanger through a series of workshops to create a banner and costumes for the march. Clothes were dyed and sashes sown as the women prepared to walk in the shoes of their counterparts from a century ago. Felt violets were stitched for the boaters worn by the participants, and bells were carried to make sure attention was drawn towards the Margate contingent among the thousands in the crowd.
Left: The group from Margate arrive in London. Right: Artist Jessica Voorsanger with the banner created at Turner Contemporary.
In 1918, the Representation of the People Act gave the first British women the right to vote and stand for public office. The panels created for Turner Contemporary’s banner represented portraits of important suffragists from around the world, alongside contemporary reflections and imagery around womens’ rights today.
Artist Jessica Voorsanger, workshop participants, staff from Turner Contemporary, POW! Thanet, participants from East Kent Mencap and designer Zoe Murphy all marched together from Park Lane to Parliament Square carrying the banners they had created that held slogans including ‘I can’t keep quiet’ and ‘Still we rise’.
“I knew the march itself would be inspiring, but even the train ride up and walk across London to the starting point made me feel like I was tracing the footsteps of suffragettes from 100 years ago. There was a real sense of determination and celebration about every aspect of the day, and Jessica and her group drew claps and smiles wherever we walked. The procession itself was one of the most colourful, positive, and hand-worked things I've ever seen. Not only were there women from all over joining together to speak with their attendance, but what they wanted to say was carefully crafted into such beautiful flags and banners swaying above their heads as they chatted and sang and walked. It has given me a renewed sense of purpose, and reminded me that political pressure doesn't have to be angry or ugly, it can be happy and warm and wonderful.” – Zoe Murphy, participant from Margate
“Being part of the procession was an amazing experience….and it was wonderful that POW! was able to be represented along with the official banner from Turner Contemporary, where some of the participants from previous workshops worked on the POW! banner. The entire process has informed the main opening event we are planning for the next POW! festival in March 2019, which will open at Turner Contemporary. Banners and a procession will definitely feature!” – Jan Ryan, participant from Margate
PROCESSIONS is a vast artwork based on an original idea by creative director Darrell Vydelingum. One hundred women artists were commissioned to work with organisations and communities across the UK to create one hundred centenary banners for PROCESSIONS as part of an extensive public programme of creative workshops.
Left: The group from Margate are filmed live for BBC news. Right: Participant, Joyce Limbrick, stands in full costume by the banner created at Turner Contemporary.
PROCESSIONS was commissioned by 14-18 NOW, the UK’s arts programme for the First World War centenary and produced by Artichoke. 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 Festival of Voice and Wales Millennium Centre.
This project celebrates one hundred years since the first UK women got the right to vote. If you’re not already registered to vote, sign up here.
The participants from Margate would like to thank Southeastern for sponsoring their travel to this once-in-a-lifetime event.
To find out about other events happening at Turner Contemporary, check out our What's On page here.