In the first few months of 2012 I worked as a dresser on South Downs/The Browning Version at the Comedy Theatre in London. I was in the second year of my PhD, and also putting together the manuscript of The Methuen Drama Book of Suffrage Plays. Working in wardrobe on West End shows is intense - you're in eight shows a week and often also more for laundry calls, understudy runs, and maintenance sessions. It's also great fun - I've worked in wardrobe on nearly 30 West End shows since 1998 and been fortunate to work with and for some incredibly lovely and talented people on stage and off.
It was on that show that the idea of a suffrage themed 'top trumps' style game first came to me. I thought it would be a great way to introduce some of the amazing campaigners I was finding in my research - and talking about constantly! - to new audiences in an accessible and fun way.
My friend Greg who was then the deputy head of the wardrobe dept and is now a tailor was super encouraging of the idea and I mocked up a set to see if it would work. It did. Since that day I've been going on and on about this idea, keen to make it happen but not knowing how to do so.
But finally - in 2018 it has! It was totally worth the wait. Suffra-Greats! is a reality.
I've written the text for the cards, and the fantastic illustrations are by Cat Crossley, who runs Clavis and Claustra. The scores and categories have been fun to create, especially in this Vote100 centenary year of the partial franchise. This is what they represent:
Creativity - inventiveness in campaigning for Votes for Women.
Fame - how well known the person was in their lifetime.
Daring - the person's involvement in militancy and direct action.
Legacy - how the person has been remembered.
A high score means their face or name is widely recognised.
A low score shows they have not yet been celebrated enough.
The game comes with 30 playable cards, and instructions.
This year I've been among the suffrage historians who have been keen to point out that the colours of the movement were not all purple, white and green!
The Suffra-Greats! represent 18 different suffrage societies, shown by rosettes in their own colours. These include militant and constitutional societies, and societies for both women and men.
The first outing for the cards was at the National Theatre as part of the Courage Everywhere pop up events day on Sunday 18th November.
I was delighted to see adults and children enjoying playing the game and finding out all about the campaigners featured.
As of November 2018 packs of Suffra-Greats! are now available online and in a number of museum shops. At £10 a pack they are a perfect gift! Order them here: Clavis and Claustra
My second edited collection with Methuen Drama is being published on the 2nd July! It contains twelve pieces in all - a wide variety of material written by female and male suffragist writers between 1908-1914.
Spanning different styles and genres, the pieces explore many issues that interested feminist and suffragist campaigners such as the value of women's work, domestic and economic inequality, visibility in public space, direct action and its consequences, sexual double standards, and the influence of the media on public opinion. This collection builds on my first volume of plays, published in 2013. If you get both you will have an impressive collection of playable, accessible and fascinating plays that speak to us directly about how the suffrage movement represented itself on the stage and through the medium of performance.
Here's a little bit about each of the plays to whet your appetites!
It's been a couple of months now since my job at Parliament finished - and I've been meaning to write about some of the creative outputs of my time as part of the Vote 100 team. I was part of an AHRC funded project called 'What Difference Did the War Make? World War One and Votes for Women' run by the University of Lincoln and UK Parliament Vote 100 alongside the University of Plymouth. The project outputs included three panel events in Lincoln, Plymouth and London discussing not only the project topic but the work and legacy of past and present female Members of Parliament, alongside workshops for young people, and an exhibition in Parliament and online. You can see that exhibition here: www.parliament.uk
I'm not going to talk about those outputs in this blog post though. Instead this is a brief introduction to some of the other outputs involving project research that happened over the course of my year there - outputs I'm really excited about and that reached out to different audiences in different spaces. There's music, games, theatre, and sweets!
Thoughts, reflections, bits of research