This week I have sat and chatted with the Carmarthen Women’s Institute, had a selfie with a Dorothy Evans MBE, stitched my grandmother’s name onto a giant butterfly, spoken with the world’s oldest skydiver and laughed on the phone with the leader of the ‘Only Menopause Allowed’ choir…it’s been another busy week working as the Welsh Co-ordinator on PROCESSIONS, the bold and brilliant creation of London’s Artichoke Trust and 14-18 NOW, programmed as part of Wales Millennium Centre’s Festival of Voice.
On the afternoon of Sunday 10th June the four voting capitals will see thousands of women walking through the streets, donning violet, green and white scarves and wielding hand-made material banners to create one of the largest ever attempted living art pieces in the UK. This event invites women and girls (including all who identify as women and non-binary) to celebrate what was achieved 100 years ago by the Suffrage movement and ask what it means to them today.
Over the past few months all across Wales women and girls have been banner-making. Using church halls, offices, youth centres or living rooms they have been sewing, embroidering, print-screening, painting, dying, wonder-webbing, felt working or knitting to express themselves. Whether their banner aims to celebrate, to challenge, to commemorate or to unify, each one tells a unique and poignant tale.
My role has allowed me to witness some truly special moments initiated by PROCESSIONS. In every banner-making workshop I have experienced such generosity and compassion embedded in the group’s collaborative process -whether they’re discussing which colour fabric to use or what exact word to select, the conversations have been open, curious and warm and always involving a LOT of laughter. There’s something quite addictive about the meditative and considered process of creating a banner as a group – an alchemy to the current popular means of self-expression found on digital platforms like social media.
Each group has surprised me – their reasons behind wanting to make a banner, what images and inspirations they have taken and what messages they’ve wanted to convey. In Y Festri in Llanberis Abbie has given her ‘Stitch ‘N’ Bitch’ get togethers a PROCESSIONS twist, in Cardiff Mel has teamed up with Inroads creating a banner that commemorates the women of Greenham Common after attending an inspiring talk at St Fagans by Thalia Campbell on International Women’s Day. In Newport a trio of awesome women: Sally, Rhian and Danielle have come together to host workshops that honour Newport’s historical links with the Suffrage movement, creating banners and flags that celebrates the city’s vibrant community arts scene. From manifestos that challenge violence against women and girls, to paintings of sunsets and Arabic calligraphy, each canvas will be sure to provoke a different conversation as women and girls parade with them through the streets of Cardiff on June 10th.
Banner making is one element of PROCESSIONS and is not compulsory of course! In spreading the word and attending on the day everyone will be a key part in depicting a giant living-portrait, reaffirming that no matter how different our lives and histories are we are still drawn to coming together and working for positive lasting change…
It is free to join in PROCESSIONS on Sunday 10 June in Cardiff city centre. Register in advance at www.processions.co.uk/register for all the information ahead of the event, for guides on how to make your own banner at home and for a little extra inspiration.