PROCESSIONS was a once-in-a-lifetime mass participation artwork which celebrated one hundred years of votes for women.
In 1918, the Representation of the People Act gave the first British women the right to vote. One hundred years on, women* and girls across the UK were invited to come and mark this historic moment as part of a living portrait of women in the 21st century.
On Sunday 10th of June, women and girls in Belfast, Cardiff, Edinburgh and London came together as part of this celebratory mass participation artwork. Wearing either green, white or violet, the colours of the suffragette movement, the PROCESSIONS appeared as a flowing river of colour through the city streets.
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.
Bedford Creative Arts was one of these one-hundred organisations and worked with artist Quilla Constance (aka Jennifer Allen) to make a banner artwork with the women of Bedfordshire for this extraordinary event.
Through a series of playful and creative workshops in April – June 2018, artist Quilla Constance collaborated with a diverse group of women from Bedfordshire to create one of the one-hundred specially commissioned banners.
This diverse group was made up of women originating from countries across the globe, including Malaysia, Zambia, Finland & Spain, and from groups such as Bedfordshire Refugee and Asylum Seeker Support, Carers in Bedfordshire and Women of Bedford.
The workshops focused on text and textiles, echoing the practices of the women’s suffrage campaign and explored the ideas, hopes and concerns of women in 21st Century to develop Bedfordshire’s own banner.
Image credit: Cat Lane
Paying homage to the bold designs of the suffragettes, a “riotously fluorescent” and sequin-emblazoned sci-fi-carnival banner for the 21st Century was made, declaring “Power Into The Future – Women of Bedfordshire Unite!” in text designed by local illustrator Katie Allen.
Playfully reflecting 21st Century popular culture and the many cultures of the Bedfordshire community with defunct QR codes, B-movie influenced typography and triffid-inspired creatures; the banner also celebrates the diverse fabrics of the world.
Collaboratively designed and made by the women of Bedfordshire and Quilla Constance, the banner was created to acknowledge the spirit of the early fight for the right to vote and remind us of the strength of women today, to power towards a better future for the women of tomorrow.
On Sunday 10 June 2018 Bedford Creative Arts, women from Bedfordshire and artist Quilla Constance took to the streets of central London to walk alongside 30,000 women and girls and mark the centenary of the first British women’s right to vote.
Wearing scarves in the colours of the suffragette movement (green, violet and white) women from across the UK gathered to walk through the four political capitals, Edinburg, Cardiff and Belfast for mass artwork PROCESSIONS, creating a living, moving banner of the three bands of colour in the heart of each city.
This extraordinary, empowering and celebratory event attracted women from groups such as Brownie packs, an organisation for female ex-prisoners and an upholsterer’s guild, who all walked alongside one another through Piccadilly and around Trafalgar Square before heading to Parliament, the heart of British political power.
Bedfordshire’s banner was included in an exhibition of the 100 Years 100 Banners in September 2018 at SPILL Festival, Ipswich.
“It’s been an empowering experience – meeting others to create a symbol of modern womanhood in celebration of the sacrifices and achievements of our great grandmothers.”,
“This project has allowed us to learn more about women of our past who shaped today but also reflect on today’s current climate and what we feel strongly should still change for the future.”,
“My daughter, and myself have loved it. It’s a first for us. A unique opportunity to have this time with my daughter and how often do you come together as women. It’s about tomorrow’s generation and that’s really refreshing.”,
“It is a really important recognition of what women can, and do, achieve through creative and united activity.
I love the connection with the brave and powerful women who stood up for a fair and better society over 100 years ago and then what that now means for us and future generations.
I love that it is women coming together from all parts of the country (and the world) to work cooperatively on a fabulous piece of work… in a very traditional way… sitting together stitching and sharing stories about our very varied lives… and I’ve learnt new skills apart from anything else.”,
“Bedford, you were seen, heard and appreciated. Thank you”,
The project was featured in the international and national press. Bedfordshire’s banner was featured widely, including on BBC News TV and BBC News online, Al Jazeera, The Guardian, The Daily Mail and London Evening Standard. Artist Quilla Constance was also quoted in The New York Times, Washington Post, International Business Times, Houston Chronicle and Arab News.
*those who identify as women or non-binary
This vast artwork is based on an original idea by creative director Darrell Vydelingum.
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.