On December 14th 2018 the bright blue skies and sunshine disputed Manchester’s reputation as a rainy city, but its reputation as a radical city of protest where we do things differently was very much reinforced by the unveiling of a statue to suffragette leader Emmeline Pankhurst in St Peter’s Square, a hundred years to the day after some women voted for the first time in a British general election.
After a lengthy and dedicated campaign by Councillor Andrew Simcock, Manchester’s first statue of a woman since 1901 (Queen Victoria) was revealed to a crowd of thousands, including a thousand school children and adults who had marched to the square from the home of the Pankhursts by Manchester Royal Infirmary. The procession even included a horse-drawn cart from which Mrs Pankhurst addressed the cheering crowds along the route.
We were very proud to be part of the ceremony, which began with “Sisters Are Doing It For Themselves” by Aretha Franklin and Annie Lennox to get us all warmed up and dancing along. Councillor Simcock introduced the proceedings while Naga Munchetty from the BBC compered the day’s events. Our wonderful musical director Liz Powers sang the beautiful solo verses of Jules Gibb’s song, “Nana Was A Suffragette”, with the choir joining in the choruses. This was followed by “The Pankhurst Anthem”, written by great-grand-daughter of Emmeline, Helen Pankhurst, composed by Emmeline’s relative Lucy Pankhurst and arranged for us by Alison Crutchley.
Our set concluded with John Farnham’s “You’re The Voice”, also arranged for us by Alison Crutchley. Once we filed off the stage we had the chance to hear speeches from Helen Pankhurst, Baroness Williams of Trafford, Councillor Sarah Judge, lead member for women, Manchester City Council, schoolgirl Fatima Shahid and the Lord Mayor of Manchester Councillor June Hitchin. After the statue was unveiled, sculptor Hazel Reeves spoke, and added her voice to the call to carry on the fight for women’s full equality in which Emmeline Pankhurst had played such a vital role.