We were honoured to take part in the national Processions event last week, a once-in-a-lifetime mass participation artwork which celebrated one hundred years of votes for women.
Artist Jean McEwan worked with participants in Bradford to make the city’s banner for the big march in London, which was even featured on TV. She shared her experience with us.
“The Brick Box were to be one of the 100 organisations commissioned by Artichoke from around the UK to make a banner with a group of women for Processions mass participation artwork. The Brick Box then commissioned me as the artist to work with them on the project to make the banner with a group. We decided that we wanted to offer the opportunity our to as broad a network of Bradford women as possible and to extend the invitation as widely as possible, so we created a list of groups organisations and individuals from a range of backgrounds and invited people to join us on a series of 4 workshops and then to take the banner to London for the event there on the 12th June.
“We had a great group of women signing up of all ages and backgrounds. Some of us knew each other and some didn’t, but from the start everyone really bonded and there was a great feeling of connection and enjoyment in being and working together and designing and making our banner from start to finish It was a real collective endeavour – we all worked together to share ideas and skills to make it happen.
“We spent loads of time thinking and talking about this in our second session. The feeling was that we had an opportunity to take a strong message about Bradford women to London which would be seen by thousands and so we wanted to make a bold and proud statement about Bradford women.
“We wanted to celebrate the fact that there are so inspiring and amazing women in Bradford who are change makers in their everyday lives. We also were drawn to the idea of nature and land and growth and that Bradford is a place which nurtures this change making spirit, and that makes the city really special.
“We played around with lots of wording and discussing it as a group before coming to ‘Bradford Grows Powerful Women’ – which resonated with everyone. It was definitely a Eureka moment!
“We choose a lime green for the background to reflect the work of Bradford Women For Peace who in recent years when the EDL have come to the city have out green ribbons as a symbol of unity peace and harmony. Because the ribbons and the lime green are very recognisable and known within the city for this, and a symbol of people coming together , we wanted this to be part of our banner.
“To make the words on the banner we split into small groups to make each word. On the word ‘Women’ we collaged photos of Bradford women past and present to be part of the letters, which as well as the group members, also included other Bradford women who inspire us in their everyday lives.
“We travelled down to London on the coach and then assembled with and all the other groups and banners taking part in the event in Hyde Park – it was brilliant because we got to see banners made by groups of women and girls from all over the country. It was such an emotional experience to see them.
“We then processed with our banners as a huge group through the streets of central London from Park Lane to over the river – all of us were given scarves of purple, green and white and arranged into sections so that from above you could see a huge moving line of Suffragette colours.
“We wanted to expand our message by becoming part of the banner ourselves so we also made and decorated watering cans to go with our theme and had Bradford Water which we were spraying around – this was brilliant fun and people really responded to the idea. It was a hot day so people appreciated being spritzed with Bradford water. We were even featured as part of the BBC coverage of the event so our message was seen by even more people.
“We met up with other Bradford women who had made banners individually which was brilliant. We also met loads of women taking part. Loads of people taking part in the march responded to our banner and watering cans and came to see and speak to us because they liked our message or had a personal connection with Bradford – people were so warm and positive and it was brilliant to get these responses!
“There were so many creative and inspiring banners! We loved seeing suffragette Princess Sophia Duleep Singh being represented on quite a few banners – Sonia, one of our group, has organised a number of events and talks in Bradford about Sophia, so this was really special. There was also an incredible banner from Tara Arts in London of ‘Shakti’ -a symbol of feminine creative power. Another favourite was a three dimensional Viva LA Vulva banner – which we all loved.
“It was a brilliant atmosphere and a powerful experience to walk through the streets of London with thousands of other women with messages of power and strength and solidarity. It was really special to have that experience together as a group. Some of the group couldn’t come on the day for various reasons and we really missed them being with us but we carried them with us in spirit and they were physically present as part of the banner.”