Somerset Rural Life Museum and Somerset Art Works are delighted to present a new exhibition marking the centenary of the Representation of the People Act. The Act gave the first British women the right to vote.

Processions: Two Banners, One Voice has just opened at the Museum. It displays a rare original suffrage banner created by the Weston-super-Mare branch of the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies alongside a contemporary banner created by students from Strode College in Street.

The students worked with Bristol-based artist Dorcas Casey to create the banner. It is one of 100 commissioned centenary banners that formed part of PROCESSIONS*, a mass participation artwork that took place on 10 June. Students from Strode College joined women and girls from across the UK who came together in London to process the banners.

Curator Bethan Murray from the South West Heritage Trust said: “The exhibition will allow visitors to discover how the women of Somerset played their part in the fight for women’s suffrage and their continuing roll in working for women’s rights today.”

Beccy Swaine from Somerset Art Works said: “Look closely at the new banner and you will see the enthusiasm, passion and creativity of the women and girls who represented Somerset in London as part of Processions 1918-2018.”

Artist Dorcas Casey worked with students from Strode College Art Department to design and create the contemporary textile banner. It was influenced by original Suffrage banners and encorporates the unique culture of the county. Glastonbury Festival wrist bands are woven into the design.

Dorcas said: “The process of making suffrage banners fostered a sense of collective, collaborative progress for the women who were fighting for equal rights. It’s hard to imagine how subversive and incendiary these embroidered banners were when they first appeared in public. Beneath their beautiful, meticulous surfaces, lies a story of strength, courage, and collaboration.”

The exhibition at the museum

The exhibition is on display at Somerset Rural Life Museum in Glastonbury from 16 June to 2 September.

For more information about the project to create the banners visit the blog somersetprocessions.wordpress.com

*PROCESSIONS is produced by Artichoke and commissioned by 14-18 NOW, the UK’s arts programme for the First World War centenary. Somerset Art Works is one of 100 commissioned organisations www.processions.co.uk

TOP PHOTO: Somerset Art Works at Processions photo by Ben McCluskey.