Articles

‘New Dawn’: The women’s suffrage artwork for Parliament, part 5/5 – The unveiling

December 5, 2019


– The Works of Art Committee
wanted to make sure that we had a suitable
representation in the Parliamentary Art Collection of the work of all
of those who were involved in the campaign to get votes for
women. The Committee very much felt
that we wanted something contemporary, something
that would speak to, not only today’s generation of young
women but also generations to come and although we did look at the idea
of a statue of one of the leading
suffragettes we actually came to the conclusion that
we wanted something that would be different, that would be
contemporary, something from the 21st century and that was when
we came together with Mary to create an incredible
light installation. Parliament’s always evolving
and I think it’s absolutely right that the works of art
that are in the parliamentary collection should also evolve. We could have opted for something
that was very traditional but actually Mary’s work,
I think, works brilliantly alongside the statues and
alongside the wall paintings. This is something new and
different but in the same way it fits brilliantly in
the space in the building. – It just felt as though
it was a very powerful spot within Parliament, it’s where
going through into St Stephen’s Hall that’s where
all the women protested and then they were banned
from central lobby, so to put an art work above
the entrance to St Stephen’s is a very powerful statement
and the artwork is an open portcullis structure so
it’s like saying “we’re here, we’re here and we’re here to stay.” – A lot of people have
helped make New Dawn possible and on behalf of the Committee
and Mary, I would like to thank them. Our final thank you, however,
must of course go to all those women and men who, for over 60 years, fought for votes for women. – One of my predecessors,
Speaker Lowther, had to deal with the disruption
caused to the Chamber by suffragette protests,
disruption, if I may say so, very properly and inevitably
caused to the Chamber by those protests. He dealt with banners being
dropped into the chamber, leaflets being scattered
from the galleries and protesters chaining
themselves to the grilles of the Ladies’ Gallery. – The courage and the
persistence of the suffragettes and those many thousands
of women who campaigned for the vote are shown in
Mary Branson’s artwork. Their history is integral to New Dawn and gives an extremely powerful
message. It is a new dawn. It has been one for many years and it will continue until
equality is achieved. – I’m one of the new women intake in
2015 and I’m gonna do the fun bit, so everybody, do you have one of
these? Has everybody, has everybody
been given a glow stick? I want you all to count with me. Ten!
– [Audience] Ten! Nine!
– [Audience] Nine! Eight!
– [Audience] Eight! Seven!
– [Audience] Seven! Six!
– [Audience] Six! Five!
– [Audience] Five! Four!
– [Audience] Four! Three!
– [Audience] Three! Two!
– [Audience] Two! One!
– [Audience] One! – My name is Helen Pankhurst. I’m Sylvia’s granddaughter. Emmeline Pankhurst’s
great-granddaughter. It’s fantastic that finally
there’s commemoration within the Houses of Parliament
about the suffrage movements. All the thousands of women that
dedicated so much of their lives
to make sure that we all, now, would benefit from
a more egalitarian Parliament. So, yeah, wonderful. Sylvia, as an artist, I think would be looking at it with an artist’s eye and would be commenting on that and on the symbolism of it and so on. I think she’d also
appreciate it for what it is, but I think it would be the artist in her that would come out. I think Emmeline would be
saying probably things like, “It’s about time. It’s really important
that the suffragettes and the suffrage movement
is celebrated. We need a lot more in this
establishment as testament of everything that they
did,” and I think she’d also say
it’s a beautiful piece of work. – I think it’s absolutely tremendous. It’s beautiful. It’s so wonderful to see such
a positive, engaging work of art in such a prominent place in the building. I think it’s greatly
improved by having that. Everywhere you look in this building, particularly the old building, it’s images of men and
I think women’s history is hidden in this building. It’s hidden in lots of different
places and whether it’s down in the undercroft or a broken spur on a statue, to have something that’s big and bold and says, “Women are welcome here and part of this building,”
is just so important. – Oh, I’m absolutely,
it’s not quite the thing to say, over the moon, it’s really
absolutely wonderful. I’m utterly thrilled because
we have a young woman artist who has produced a wonderful piece of
work and her installation will be here for as long as this building stands and it’s already stood for many,
many hundreds of years. I can’t think of anything
more important to women than to know that she’s
made that contribution and it honours all women
who have ever campaigned, who’ve come to this Parliament and that is just the most wonderful
thing and it’s been a great evening. – Well, it’s spectacular
and it’s wonderful and, from the very beginning, when I
first met Mary Branson and we went through what the possibilities were I was convinced that we were gonna have something very, very special. I think it’s gonna be
a destination of choice in it’s own right, even
although it’s placed here. People will come just to see that work of art and that memorial. – So I’d like people
to go up the steps and then turn the corner
and then see the artwork and just be impressed. I suppose I wanted
to create an artwork that makes people stop and look and then start asking questions and I think that’s what happened
to me in my residency is I started
asking more questions about how women got the vote because I think, well,
for my generation anyway, our knowledge is very limited and there’s a lot more to it.

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