The idea for this piece first came to me seven years ago, after the Salisbury Community Play of 1997-The Lark Still Bravely Singing.
In researching and writing that, I unearthed a considerable amount of material on the women's suffrage campaign, as it happened here in Salisbury. Unfortunately, in a play covering a much wider span of events, there was not much room for it and most of the material lay 'on file' unused. That which was used had to be truncated, or the piece would have run for four hours!
I thought at the time that it might be worth producing a script which did more justice to the women's story. This proved less easy than it seemed, because the ladies of Salisbury were emphatically non militant! They were adamant from the start that they were Suffragists and not Suffragettes and they set their face against the civil disobedience and illegalities of Mrs. Pankhurst's branch of the movement. They fought with words and argument, which were less easily dramatised.
This forced me to depart from my normal practice of sticking closely to pure documentary - though about two thirds of the script has been lifted from the newspaper accounts of events in Salisbury and elsewhere. Thankfully, reporters in those days reported speeches almost verbatim, even to telling us what the hecklers said!
I have tried to stick to these words as far as possible, but I have also added scenes and dialogue which encapsulate many of the attitudes and opinions which I came across, but for which the documentary evidence here in Salisbury is sparse - for instance the feeling of many intelligent women, during The Great War, that their abilities were not being used properly by the Nation. We know that this belief was widespread and that it existed in Salisbury - but there isn't all that much quotable "docudrama" about it.
Some of the scenes may seem a bit too good to be true, but one of the things which struck me about the original material was how well coincidence actually worked for me, as a scriptwriter!
The Salisbury Times did report, in one edition, Mrs. Pankhurst's Suffragettes rioting (with some justification) in London, The Women's Freedom League being shouted down at meetings in Salisbury, and twenty Salisbury ladies founding the Salisbury branch of the suffrage movement.
The Journal did report, in one edition, Emily Wilding Davidson running in front of the Derby and Helen Fraser's highly successful open air meetings in the Salisbury Market Square. And, yes, a Godolphin teacher really did see items used to help wounded soldiers which might have come from one of the school's speciality war-efforts!
So is this History or Theatre?
I hope it is both - though, of course, it may be neither! Our aim as a company is always to offer you enjoyable and informative entertainment. There are more narrative devices than you will normally find in a play, but more colour and drama than you will normally find in a history lesson!
I hope that one does not totally destroy the other and that you enjoy tonight's offering.
Narrator - Holly Smith
Soprano: Rosemary Finney
At the piano: Michael Warren
Vocals: Sue Paramor, Tressera, Kellye Curtis Gulliver
Production Facilitator - George Fleming
We wish to thank the following, without whose generosity and assistance we would not have been able to bring you this production -
The Godolphin School, Mr T Cottis - Bursar Godolphin School, Ottakar's Bookshop, Studio Theatre, Jenny Bayston, Mr Peter Daniels - the picture detective, Ros Liddington, The London Museum, The Fawcett Library, Moss Bros, The Black Horse Castle Street, The Salisbury Journal, The Alderbury Players, The Durrington Players, Paul Gulliver, Munch, Joy Hambrook, our two dogs
and supported by:
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