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Promenade play follows in the footsteps of Suffolk Suffragettes

PUBLISHED: 15:59 28 September 2018 | UPDATED: 15:59 28 September 2018

(Left to Right) Paisley Pascal and Hayley Evenett will be playing the parts of two ‘time-travelling Suffragettes’ in the forthcoming promenade theatre production of ‘Footsteps’  Photo: Karen Goddard

(Left to Right) Paisley Pascal and Hayley Evenett will be playing the parts of two ‘time-travelling Suffragettes’ in the forthcoming promenade theatre production of ‘Footsteps’ Photo: Karen Goddard

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This weekend sees the start of a celebration of 100 years of women’s suffrage in Suffolk. Ipswich-based playwright Martha Loader, of Tusk Theatre, has written two very different plays to mark Women’s Voices Women’s Votes - 100 Years On Festival.

Preparing for Footsteps, a new play celebrating the role of Ipswich women in the quest to grant women the vote.(Left to right) Natalie Songer (director) and Martha Loader (playwright)  Photo: Karen GoddardPreparing for Footsteps, a new play celebrating the role of Ipswich women in the quest to grant women the vote.(Left to right) Natalie Songer (director) and Martha Loader (playwright) Photo: Karen Goddard

The first play is Footsteps, a free promenade theatre performance, which tours and is performed on key sites in Ipswich town centre, telling the local story of women’s suffrage. Producer Karen Goddard says that the idea is to celebrate the centenary of women getting the vote in a public way as possible highlighting local stories which people may not know about.

The festival is also about bringing women’s groups and community companies together to present a range of work centred around the anniversary of women gaining the vote in the UK.

Footsteps was conceived as an open air event to raise awareness of the festival and to give audiences a tangible feel for the locations the events took place in.

“The performance tour around the town is designed to bring the actions and experiences of local campaigners to life,” says Karen. “We will be stopping off at three site-specific locations across Ipswich town centre, starting off at Arras Square before heading to Museum Street and Tower Street.

Preparing for Footsteps, a new play celebrating the role of Ipswich women in the quest to grant women the vote. Photo: Karen GoddardPreparing for Footsteps, a new play celebrating the role of Ipswich women in the quest to grant women the vote. Photo: Karen Goddard

“Audiences will follow two actors as they reconstruct key events and introduce important local figures such as Elizabeth Garrett Anderson, her sister Millicent Fawcett and Constance Andrews, famous for boycotting the census by staging an illegal overnight sit-in at the building now known as Arlington’s café.”

Much of the research for the play came from research conducted by local historian Joy Bounds. “It’s part lecture, part panto, part promenade…pure street theatre with fun audience engagement at site-specific stopping off points.

“It’s fascinating to think that local women were staging these protests on our doorstep,” says Karen Goddard. “Force-feeding of the women who set fire to Felixstowe’s Bath Hotel actually went on in Ipswich gaol.

“Sometimes the direct action was quite imaginative – for instance, in Ipswich ten little girls were placed on a flat-bed open carriage and processed around the town. Nine were dressed in the national costume of countries that had already given women the vote, but poor little ‘Britannia’ had a label around her neck saying; “No Vote for Britannia Yet”.”

Footsteps is being performed on Saturday September 29 and again on October 4-5. All performances are at 11.30am & 2pm. There’s no need to book, just turn up wearing outdoor clothing.

A Sort of Revolution, also written by Martha Loader, is designed to be a complementary piece to Footsteps, taking a more up-to-date look at the world of female empowerment. Karen describes it as a clever, witty and very thoughtful two-hander that focuses on a contemporary couple navigating their way around what it means to be a feminist.

This play and other events will form Women’s Voices Women’s Votes - 100 Years On Festival to be held at University of Suffolk on October 6 from 10am to 4pm. There will be talks exploring gender equality, empowerment workshops, more drama, singing, crafts, poetry and even an opera.

Karen Goddard says: “We hope it will be both fun and entertaining but also a fitting and poignant tribute to the women who worked so hard to win the vote”.

The festival is supported by the National Lottery and Ipswich Borough Council.

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