Unveiling of the Emmeline Pankhurst statue
On Dec.14th 1918 women* were able to vote in a general election for the first time, the result of years of struggle by thousands of brave, inspiring women led by the Women’s Political and Social Union. Exactly 100 years later a statue of “Emmeline” (Pankhurst) is finally unveiled in Manchester. And Manchester Community Choir is invited to sing. What a magnificent day it is! Sometimes, words are inadequate to describe feelings… PROUD, HONOURED, PRIVILEGED, OVERWHELMED, EMOTIONAL, UNFORGETTABLE.
It starts with “the sound of feet perpetually beating, the pounding of our hearts as we march on throughout the streets”**. 6000 women and men, including 1000 children from 30 schools across Manchester chanting “Deeds not Words”, the slogan of the suffragettes, and took us back to the struggles and amazing achievements 100 years before.
“Sisters Are Doing It For Themselves” begins the ceremony and then it’s us! Liz our brilliant musical director leads us for “Nana Was A Suffragette” many tears are shed and “It’s as if she’s still alive, their voices still survive”. Then the Pankhurst Anthem. Finally we sing “You’re The Voice”, ending with the powerful words, “We’re not gonna sit in silence, we’re not gonna live with fear”.
Speeches follow, the best one given by Fatima Shahid, an 11 year old schoolgirl from Newall Green school, Wythenshawe. What a confident young woman, Emmeline would be proud. Then the moment we’ve all been waiting for, the unveiling of the bronze statue. The purple, green and white are removed and the statue is revealed. Emmeline, urging us all to fight for equality, justice and a fairer world. The cheers resonate throughout the square.
But we all need to remember that the fight is far from over, there is still so much to be done. “Votes for women is just the beginning, you haven’t seen anything yet..” Take a look around”*** We have to continue the fight for justice and equality begun over 100 years ago.
The next day we sing in the Central Library and I am so proud to see my daughter and grandson in the audience. As we sing “Nana” again, I looked over towards them and realised that because of Emmeline and thousands of her sisters and comrades we can raise strong, independent, empowered, principled daughters and sons who will go on to fight and change the world. “Take a look around. There’s a lot of angry women (and men) who won’t let their Nanas down”***.
Sue Nathan. Very proud Soprano, Mum and Nana.
*Over the age of 30 with property
**Pankhurst Anthem by Lucy and Helen Pankhurst
***Nana Was A Suffragette by Jules Gibbs. Video by John Eaden – thanks John.