We had been delighted to get a New Year message from Richard and Rita Pankhurst saying: ‘Great news about the Sylvia tour’, and we look forward to living up to their hopes. We certainly think it is great news to be touring again too! At the same time, we were very saddened to hear of Richard's recent death, and we have added a statement about this on our Home page. We have also decided that the performances on this spring tour of SYLVIA will be dedicated to him.
We are giving ten performances at nine venues from Cranleigh in Surrey to Newcastle-upon-Tyne and it looks as if the people booking us at venues are as excited as we are. They have all been very helpful and friendly and we look forward to meeting them!
We were not idle on the question of Sylvia Pankhurst even when we were not performing the show. In 2007 the photographs taken by William Alderson of Sylvia’s paintings were used in an exhibition at Woodford and in 2008 at Redbridge Museum. Then I wrote the articles for www.sylviapankhurst.com and for the Women’s History Magazine (summer 2009) and gave the Sylvia Pankhurst Memorial Lecture that year too. Meanwhile, scholars have used the slides on book covers or to illustrate articles.
To our delight, Sylvia is becoming known as an artist because of the quality of her art, not just because her paintings have some social or historical significance. In 2013 she had an exhibition at the Tate Gallery at last! I helped Hester Reeve, who put this exhibition together with Olivia Pender, but I only got the opportunity to meet her at the Sylvia Pankhurst Memorial Lecture 2015 and she brought a group to SYLVIA at Wortley Hall in 2016. We are now good friends
Sylvia had a wonderful life, always in the thick of the political movements of the era, from Votes for Women to anti-Fascism and support for Ethiopian independence. It may seem strange that we keep insisting on the importance of her art, but while others are remembering her for her political work – as we do ourselves of course – we also feel that this side of her work should not be neglected. She lived in a period when women artists were little valued and little known, and we feel that it is important to recognise her achievements, and what we lost when she stopped painting.
If you want to know more, we talk about her campaigns and her art in the lively discussions after the shows, so come along and join us with your own questions and comments!