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Arts

Carlisle’s Forgotten Suffragette

Carlisle’s militant suffragette

[A] newly established local theatre company will present the lost story of a Carlisle born suffragette in a play to be performed at the city’s Old Fire Station this Friday.

In the centenary year of women over thirty being given the vote in 1918, Number 8, written by Jane Reardon, tells the story of Maud Mary Brindley, who was born in Carlisle in 1860. Branded a terrorist by the British state and imprisoned with the Pankhursts in Holloway, the title of the play derives from Brindley’s position on Special Branch’s national watch list.

Brindley eventually moved to Hampstead in north London, became an artist and did time in prison for smashing windows on the capital’s Oxford Street. She died in Kent in September 1939, days after the start of WW2 and eleven years after all women had been granted the vote at the age of 21 on the same terms as men.

The is the first outing for Lost Art Theatre, whose aim is to take lost ideas and use forgotten spaces. Their aim is to shine a light on moments from the past and look at them in a new way with a focus upon experimental theatre and on devising new works to commemorate historical milestones.

Jane Reardon, the company’s director, said: “City council leader Colin Glover asked whether there were any events planned to mark the centenary of the 1918 Representation of the People Act. I told him I had devised a piece based on suffragettes a few years ago with an A Level group when I worked as a teacher and that I would be happy to rework this if I could get a cast together.”

One of the reasons Jane became interested in Brindley is because she was one of a number of suffragettes who were considered terrorists by the UK state. A number of suffragettes had their photos taken in secret by Scotland Yard so they could keep tabs on them and Brindley was number eight. The only known photo that exists of her shows the number.

The photos are displayed in current exhibitions at the Museum of London and the National Portrait Gallery.

Jane continued: “When I first started my research, everyone told me I wouldn’t find a militant suffragette from Carlisle, but I was determined to prove them wrong. Maud was an active WSPU member. Devising from scratch is quite time consuming so I started writing for the first time after doing a playwriting course with Darren Harper at Fisher Street Galleries. I was able to use quite a few first hand accounts from suffragettes and official documents online and have used my artistic licence to flesh the story out where I reached dead ends. Although the plot follows Maud, we also cover the local and national story of women’s fight for suffrage.”

Jane is working with a number of former drama students from her time at Ullswater Community College in Penrith. Rebecca Osborne plays Maud and the other cast members are Carrie McWilliams, Sophia Mossop and Lydia Phillips.

Jane concluded: “The future of the company will come down to support and funding, which unfortunately has been drastically cut nationally in recent years, and we’re really grateful for the city council’s support with this project. It’s important that Maud’s story is told.”

Number 8 will be performed at the Old Fire Station in Carlisle at 7.30pm on Friday 13th July. Tickers are available from the Old Fire Station on 01228 598596 and at https://www.oldfirestation.carlisle.city/whats-on

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