On June the 10th, 2018, hudreds of women will march together in all 4 capital cities of Britain to mark 100 years since the Women’s Suffrage movement finally achieved their goal of votes for women. (Votes yes. Equality, presumably, will catch up in time) PROCESSIONS 2018 is commissioned by 14-18-NOW, the UK arts programme for the First World War Centenary.
Merched Chwarel will be attending PROCESSIONS in Cardiff, raising a banner and representing the women of quarrying communities who’s voices have been silenced by HIStory.
In the spirit of the Merched Chwarel of the past, present and future, four of us and Pwdi the dog, walked to Rhiw Bach quarry village to make our banner.
The ruins of Rhiw Bach Quarry Village
When we arrived, we headed directly to the house that we had occupied on our last visit. Marged hung a curtain of stone rubbings from previous quarry walks. I placed the carriage clock on the mantlepiece, and we all sat down at the table, intuitively sitting in the same places as we had sat before, and shared our lunch. After lunch we wandered and explored individually, drawing, collecting and absorbing the place.
We had each brought along materials that we thought may come in handy for our banner, but we had no design or plan. Instead, we relied on the spirit of the place and our connection to the story of women’s suffrage to guide us intuitively in our collaborative banner making.
The wording came quickly.
Ddim yn dawel”
A, stanza in cynghanedd, devised by Lindsey, that expresses our message perfectly. We are not quiet, we are not silent. Merched Chwarel have been here for as long as the quarries have been here and we are making ourselves known. We are travelling to Cardiff in the spirit of the 28 members of the NUWSS who left from Bangor on the 2nd July 1913 to pilgrimage to join the famous rally of July 26th in Hyde Park.
Two Bangor Women at the start of the Suffrage Pilgrimage 1913
In the interests of practicality and safety, we couldn’t carve our message into pieces of slate and attach them to our banner so we represented the slates with silks and felt, and used the scraps to make our letters, some in positive, some negative. Like the Merched Chwarel themselves, simultaneously absent and present.
As we worked on the banner, we took over the space, filling it with materials and voices. Pwdi established a perimeter and guarded it, rumbling at the approach of sheep and the sound of voices on the breeze. A group of 3 walkers came past, who had heard of PROCESSIONS 2018 and were passionate about the history of the place.
Finally, when the banner was completely pinned, and the sunlight was becoming more angular, we resurrected the Rhiw Bach washing line and hung our banner in the shadow of the slate tips, excited about the prospect of joining so many other women in Cardiff on the 10th June.
To Join PROCESSIONS 2018. register here