Suffragettes honoured by student in final project

19 June 2018

Textile piece celebrates vote anniversary

A University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) student has dedicated her final year project to the suffragette movement, coinciding with celebrations marking 100 years since women were granted the right to vote.

Gail Riding, a community worker from Blackpool, has created a textile piece depicting twelve female Morris dancers as part of her studies for a degree in fine art.  Each dancer bears a badge featuring a British female who has made a political impact during the past 100 years.

Starting with leading women’s rights activist Emmeline Pankhurst, also included is Nancy Astor, the first ever female member of parliament, influential politician Barbara Castle and Diane Abbott, the first black woman to hold a seat in the House of Commons.

The colours purple, green and white represent loyalty, hope and purity, with the words ‘dare to dream’ stitched across the top. The piece took Gail three and a half months to create, which she did mainly from the comfort of her kitchen floor.

Mature student Gail, 59, was inspired to create the piece following a visit to the People’s History Museum in Manchester, where she viewed an exhibition honouring groups who campaigned for better rights for women.

"It’s 100 years since women were granted the power to vote, and it’s important that we continue to honour and remember the sacrifices that were made to allow us the rights we have today."

Suffragette and social worker Mary Neal and composer Cecil Sharp were responsible for the revival and popularity of Morris dancing in the early 20th Century. Mary taught routines to working class girls, who at the time would not have been given the opportunity to take dance classes.

Gail also has a personal connection to the traditional folk dance, as her grandparents ran two female Morris dancing troupes.

Gail said: “Working to support people in local communities is an extremely rewarding job, but I’ve always been creative and passionate about textiles and embroidery. My mum paints and my grandad did too, so it runs in the family.

“UCLan has always had a good reputation and it’s been handy for me as it’s not too far to travel from home. It’s been a little challenging at time, finding the work-life balance, but it’s been worth it. My tutor, David Mackintosh, has been very supportive and really helped me to build my confidence in my work."

After graduating Gail plans to spend time with her family, including her two daughters and five grandchildren, and go travelling. “To anyone thinking about studying, I’d say always follow your passion – it’s never too late to pursue what you want to do.”

Gail’s design will be on display at UCLan’s Preston campus from 15-22 June as part of the Lancashire Arts Festival Degree Show.