Lecturer puts women in the picture at suffrage exhibition

A University of Wolverhampton lecturer is helping to put women in the picture by contributing to a major photographic display in Birmingham.

‘The Face of Suffrage’, at Birmingham New Street, is a floor-based 200 metre-square photo mosaic revealing the face of a Suffragette with a ‘daring and brave’ story to tell. It is made up of more than 3,700 photos of women and girls submitted by the public, combined with hundreds of historical images from the early 1900’s.

The artwork commemorates 100 years of the women’s vote from across the West Midlands and beyond. The portrait is of Hilda Burkitt (1876-1955) the first Suffragette to be forcibly fed a total of 292 times. She worked at the Birmingham Women’s Social and Political Union in Ethel Street (near New Street station). Hilda threw a stone at Prime Minister Asquith’s train as it pulled out of the station and she was incarcerated at Winson Green Prison.

Dr Su Fahy, Principal Lecturer in the Wolverhampton School of Art, has donated photographs from her own archive ‘The Fugitive Testimonies (2009-17).  The photographs span from 1900 to 1950 and are referred to as orphan works, originally found at a flea market in the South West of England.  Su has collected 850 photographs, anecdotes and letters for her archive.

Su said: “I was drawn to submitting images of women to the project as its ambition was to celebrate women and girls past and present for the future.

“The project offers an inclusion of intimate photographs into a large-scale public art project that will create a lasting presence in the public realm and imagination after its exhibition at Birmingham New Street.

“I was keen to be part of an ambitious project that marks the close to the centenary #100years of the vote with a bold visual statement pointing to the future yet remaining in public memory. My aim with the collected archive images I have is to continually re-purpose the images so they are seen in the present as otherwise they would only be viewed through turning the page of discarded family albums.” 

The artwork, created by artist Helen Marshall of the People’s Picture, remains in place until December 14th, the date some women first voted in the UK. Around 170,000 people will see the artwork every day as they pass through the station.

The project has been co-produced by GRAIN, with the support of Network Rail, Arts Council England and CrossCountry Rail.  See the public gallery here.

ENDS

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