On 14 June 1913, 6,000 women took to the streets to remember a pivotal activist and martyr. They were walking in solidarity from Victoria to King’s Cross to celebrate the life and bravery of Emily Wilding Davison, one of the most important figures in the suffragette movement.
This weekend a festival held at St. George’s church remembers her legacy. When she heroically stood in front of the king’s horse at Epsom Derby she couldn’t possibly have known that women and men the world over would be so inspired by her actions.
The Wilding Festival from the 13 to 16 of June takes a moment like those 6,000 women to remember a woman and her movement. The festival began on Thursday with a day of discussion, music, and the arts. Men and women, young and old are supporting a myriad of multi- art activities held at St. George’s Church Bloomsbury.
“Mirror of the Open Road” is a special visual arts exhibition created for the Wilding Festival. It is curated by Akhila Krishnan and Gail Macleod who brought together artists from near and far to explore a common and moving concept. Five of the artists featured in the exhibition were contacted in India by the curators to provide work in aid of the festival. Upon hearing about the entirety of the programme these artists shipped their work bringing together a splendid interpretation of Davison’s legacy and modern feminism.
Much of the work touches on the importance of how women are portrayed in the media today and even goes on to explore the biases that our language has on the modern lady. To the right of the main entrance to the Vestry there is a small room with a spectacular film successfully blending time and space to reveal the phantom presence of Davison and her supporters at St. George’s those many years ago. Moving into the main room there is a marvelous painting that hangs in the Upper Vestry Hall at St. George’s that looks at the role that Frida, another important influencer in feminist movements throughout history has had. The artist Freya Pocklington has a number of works around the country including the British Museum, Edinburgh College of Art, and the Victoria and Albert Museum. This is by no means a show lacking in stature, although the setting purveys a sense of intimacy and humility. The curators have successfully maintained the importance of the theme and mission, allowing the distinction many of these artists have to play second fiddle.
There is great art and events to be found at this modest festival for a woman that has influenced so many people through her acts of defiance. If you would like to visit the festival the final day is Sunday 16 June. See the website for details about tickets to any of the events and the exhibition “Mirror of the Open Road” is free to visit. Don’t forget to vote!
© Portia Pettersen for Artlyst June 2013 Images: Portia Pettersen