My Time Traveller piece broadcast on BBC Radio 3's Essential Classics on Thursday 8th February 2018, was entitled 'Suffragettes on the Run' - and you can listen to it here (it's 1hr and 12 minutes into the programme)
Music Hall star and Actresses' Franchise League member Marie Lloyd, no stranger to campaigning for the rights of performers within the theatrical profession, lent her support to suffrage societies by singing at the WFL’s Old World Fair at Caxton Hall in 1909 as part of a series of concerts to raise funds, and appearing in How The Vote Was Won in the same year, presumably as the character of Maudie Spark, the music hall comedienne. As an influential, wealthy and famous performer, she was able to support the sisterhood of suffragists in unique ways. One such gesture involved her allowing her theatrical hamper to be used to smuggle a militant speaker into a meeting at the London Pavilion in 1913. Marked ‘Marie Lloyd, Pavilion. Luggage in advance,’ the hamper contained the WSPU speaker Annie Kenney, who was out of prison on licence after a period of hunger-striking and subject to immediate re-arrest under the ‘Cat and Mouse’ Act if she appeared in public.
Kenney wrote about the incident in her autobiography, Memories of a Militant, recalling the workmen who unknowingly delivered her to the theatre in the hamper making ‘growls…about the weight, about actresses having no consideration for the poor men who had to carry their baggage, and so on. I was turned, toppled, banged, dropped, before one of them got me (in my hamper, of course) on to his back.’
The ruse worked, and despite the police officers stationed around the entrances to the theatre, Kenney made it inside unnoticed.
The London Pavilion was a regular site for WSPU meetings in 1913, and the building that housed the theatre is still a prominent part of Piccadilly Circus. I remember it housing waxworks music show 'Rock Circus' when I was a child and it most recently was the site of Ripley's Believe it or Not. Built in 1885, it functioned as a music hall and variety venue until 1912, when it became the home of a string of musicals. as well as mixed bills. You can see a London Pavilion programme from 1913 here - and on the bill is a performance by Graham Moffat's company of Scottish Players. Moffat was a suffragist and the author of suffrage play 'The Maid and the Magistrate', published by the AFL. His wife, actress Maggie Moffat, was the second Scottish suffragist to be imprisoned for campaigning, when she was arrested in 1907. The Glasgow WSPU delegate for the Women's Parliament in Caxton Hall, Maggie Moffat was one of fifty-three women arrested when mounted police broke up a group of women marching peacefully to the House of Commons with a resolution for the Prime Minister. She was subsequently imprisoned in the second division in Holloway.
But back to the story in question!
The police reports of the incident in 1913 are held in The National Archives. They make fascinating reading.
The chairman, Mrs D. Fox, then announced that the elusive Miss Annie Kenney would speak. As soon as Miss Kenney rose to speak, several C.I.D. officers, who were in the wings of the Theatre crossed the Stage in order to effect her arrest. Immediately the whole of the women on stage, about 20, rushed at the officers in an attempt to prevent her arrest. They fiercely assaulted the officers, screaming and behaving in a highly hysterical, and disorderly manner.
This is a picture of Kenney being arrested in 1913 - outside the Pavilion perhaps?
The police reports show that in all eleven people were charged with obstructing police at the meeting - nine women and two men, These included a tailor, a reverend, an artist, an actress, a nurse and boarding house keeper. Many others were arrested for attempting to prevent the police taking Kenney away.
WSPU member Mary Richardson, who had been in the audience at the Pavilion, was detained for puncturing the tyres of the detectives’ taxi outside the theatre. She wrote in her autobiography: ‘As I sat in my cell… I thought of Marie Lloyd’s sporting gesture in allowing her hamper to be used to get Annie into the theatre and onto the stage. I laughed and laughed again at the thought of it.’
Thoughts, reflections, bits of research