The Wilding Festival 2013
13th – 16th June 2013
The Wilding Festival was a multi-arts festival marking 100 years since the death of suffragette Emily Wilding Davison curated by Soundcastle in partnership with the Museum of London and St George’s Bloomsbury.
On the 14th June 1913, 6000 women dressed in white marched through the streets of London to pay their respects to Emily Wilding Davison at St George’s Church, Bloomsbury. This young woman lost her life in a dramatic act of protest when she placed herself in the path of the King’s horse to highlight the cause of women’s suffrage.
100 years later Soundcastle marked this important anniversary with an eclectic and provocative programme of new art works and performances inviting our audiences to experience, consider and challenge the resonance of Emily’s legacy in our modern lives. This was a festival about equality, protest and hope. Wherever you stand on the issues, everyone has something to take away from Emily Wilding Davison’s story. By displaying a wide and varied range of brand new art works and presentations we aimed to provide an inspiring environment for people inviting discussion, reflection and discovery.
The Soundcastle team initiated the festival proposal as well as curating the full line up of events. We also created our own performance in response to our extensive research in the Museum of London archives. Alongside this we were committed to involving the community and allowing them the chance to raise their voices on this controversial point in local history. We devised a large community engagement programme involving three local primary schools, a local secondary school, over 55s ballet company Sage and the Museum of London Continue Creating Scheme for adults.
Acoustic Architecture Schools: Praise&Protest
Soundcastle brought their composition project for primary school children to the festival, guiding children in Year 4 at St Albans and St Clement Danes Primary Schools to write new music for the intriguing reverberant acoustic of St George’s Bloomsbury. Their piece was not only inspired Emily Davison’s story but also examined what the children would like to protest about today. This project was supported by the Willliam Shelton Educational Charity.
Soundcastle facilitated an intergenerational dance project between over 55’s ballet company Sage and Year 8 & 9 high school students. Led by former Royal Ballet soloist Simon Rice the group devised a deeply moving dance piece which was performed as part of a special performance to mark the exact moment when Emily Davison’s memorial service took place 100 years ago at St George’s. This project was supported by the Mercers Charitable Trust.
Memorial Plaque & Procession
Soundcastle joined forces with Year 5 children from William Tyndale Primary School and visual artists Akhila Krishnan and Jo Blaker to create a memorial mosaic plaque. The project included a visit to the Museum of London to draw inspiration from the suffragettes’ careful use of design that was at the heart of their campaign. The plaque was then unveiled by Dr Helen Pankhurst and Philippa Bilton. This event was the culmination of a community procession in which the Olympic suffragettes, stars of the Olympic opening ceremony, joined us to march through the streets of Bloomsbury. This procession from Russell Square to the church paid homage to the 6,000 women who turned out to support Emily Davison 100 years earlier. With thanks to the the Heritage Lottery Fund for their support.
Museum of London Continue Creating Scheme
The Continue Creating Scheme allows adults to get under the skin of the museum’s collections. Soundcastle joined this group to lead them through a creative process starting with close examination of the suffragette archives, and leading to the composition of a new piece of music which was performed at the festival. The group had a range of musical experiences prior to the project but most had hardly ever participated in musical activities, never mind creating their own work. Together they wrote an uplifting anthem highlighting the importance of speaking out against injustice.
Pre-festival Talks and Debate
Understanding the complex topic of women’s struggle for equality and protest, Soundcastle curated a series of three talks prior to the event to share the discussion. This began with Diane Atkinson examining Emily Davison and the the role of her final protest in the suffragette campaign, followed by Benjamin Alsop, curator of the coins at the British Museum exploring the role of currency in protest. We then hosted Marina Warner who discussed the role of the modern martyr, followed by a wide-ranging discussion with Bidisha. The series culminated in a fascinating political debate with Ceri Goddard of the Fawcett Society, Jenny Jones of the Green Party and Stella Creasy, MP for Walthamstow questioning how gender, class and race affect women in British politics.
The Wilding Festival Weekend Performance Events
Soundcastle curated a programme of over 16 performances across the centenary weekend, from the diverse Open Arts Cafe, to dance, theatre, storytelling, music and interactive tours of the area. Many of the artists created new pieces especially for the festival, which explored a wide range of responses to the issues surrounding Emily Davison’s actions. Soundcastle’s own large scale vocal piece examined the action of protest, changing the familiar into the sinister as the audience were swept along in a immersive performance described both as moving and unsettling . Meridian and Jennifer Pearcy-Edwards brought musical storytelling with the tale of the Selkie, the female sea creature who cannot be tamed. Voice filled the church with their incredible harmonies and powerful songs with their programme ‘Megaphones for the Unheard’. Kirstin Smith directed a physical theatre piece Tam Lin, using folklore to examine the act of bravery. We brought the concept of a suffragette summer party up to date with a fabulous gig showcasing outspoken songstress Annalie, hypnotic beats and songs from Evokateur. Our very own Joy To Filth Ratio brought the bounce to the party with a set of dance music re-interpretd on classical instruments. Sunday saw the beautiful sounds and ink of Lightbox’s live animation and the intriguing sounds of the hang from Ketan Kerai. This was followed by a stunning concert of contemporary classical music by clarinet and harp duo, Folie A Deux Femme and recorder quintet Consortium5. The latter premiered a set of four new works supported by the PRSF Women Make Music Fund. Troupe followed with their engrossing mix of classical music and theatrical storytelling. After an impressive parade from the hat-making workshop run by Helena Roden, the festival finally came to a close with the fabulous London Gay Men’s Chorus, showing that protest can mean producing great, uplifting art but also reminding us that there is still much to raise your voice about today.
Exhibition ‘Mirror of the Open Road’
‘a splendid interpretation of Davison’s legacy and modern feminism’ artlyst.com
Curated in collaboration with Akhila Krishnan, the exhibition took its name from Walt Whitman’s ‘Song of the Open Road’ which was placed in Emily Wilding Davison’s coffin at her funeral and buried with her. It brought together over 20 artists who responded to the festival theme in film, animation, illustration, print-making, ceramics, textiles, graphic design, sculpture, photography and fashion.