Deeds Not Words is a new bi-lingual play that reveals the achievements of Hebridean women during WW1 and the struggle of these women, marginalised by both gender and geography, in the fight for women's suffrage.
The play presents recently uncovered stories of Island women and their lives locally, nationally and in Europe, during the suffrage period of 1911 to 1918.
Deeds not Words uses these stories to create a fast moving contemporary performance using storytelling, short dialogue scenes, Hebridean humour, filmic sections, Gaelic song, music and soundscape.
Rural Nations Scotland CIC aims to inspire today's women to engage with political and local representation and take action in their own communities.
Contributions are required to bring the show to audiences across the Western Isles. The show will premier in An Lanntair Arts Centre, Stornoway ( February 2018) and then tour through the islands of the Outer Hebrides. These will be the first performances of this new work, presented in the islands where the stories originated.
The show begins with the local By-Election of 1911 which brought the attention of the suffrage movement to Lewis and the show ends with the General Election of 1918.
The play is structured around the formation in 1911 of the Stornoway Suffrage Society, with 25 members locally. During the play, a multiplicity of perspectives and stories emerge. Whilst some are brief, fragmentary even, the stories of Katie, Christine and Helen, become more involved and dramatic:
- Katie's story challenges our thinking about different phases of feminism, and the relationship between the political and the personal. In 1911, Katie Macleod was engaged to a minister but the engagement was broken off after she was slandered by another man. She sued, went to court, defending her reputation under lengthy cross examination and won her case.
- Christina’s story raises issues of direct action, class-based politics and radicalism. Christina Morrison campaigned for improved working conditions on behalf of 70 local fish workers. By the 1910s, young, working class Hebridean women were already used to working away from home in the fish gutting yards around the coast of the UK. Paid employment, hard work and contact with the outside world were not new for them in WW1.
- Helen's story takes us to the edge of women’s experience. Dr Helen Macdougall from Barvas joined the Scottish Women's Hospitals in 1914, an all female medical corps, set up by the NUWSS (National Union of Womens Suffrage Societies) and served in Serbia as an X Ray specialist.
The performances provides an opportunity for islanders to celebrate these remarkable achievements and give Hebridean women the recognition they deserve.
Alongside the performance in August the following outreach events are planned:
- An exhibition of photographs of Hebridean women 1911-1918.
- A lecture programme on Scottish Womens Hospitals and rural women's suffrage.
- Community workshops in scriptwriting and Set and Costume Design.
- A call for stories of other local women to be added to the current research.
The story of the project so far:
Rural Nations CIC commissioned playwright Toria Banks in 2015 ( with funding from Comhairle nan Eilean Siar and a bequest from a local domestic science teacher, Janet Macleod) and have supported the commission since then. The work was developed through research, contributions of stories, factual information from local people, island historical societies, The Scottish Womens Library, Stornoway Library, Museum nan Eilean, The Stornoway Historical Society, newspapers of the period, Scottish Womens Hospitals, The British Library and input from many other people and organisations both local and national.
In 2017 the assistance of Dramaturg, Dr Anna Birch, a suffrage researcher and contemporary theatre specialist was enlisted, supporting the Deeds Not Words script writer Toria Banks.
Mary Ann Kennedy was awarded a new music and Gaelic song commission with funding from Bord na Gaidhlig and Comhairle nan Eilean Siar.
Deeds Not Words will be presented in French with Gaelic song in Dunkirk, France with Companine Mers Du Nord in July2018 through Creative Europe funding (this is part of the Rural Nations partnership in the Reclaim the Future Project). The play also has invitations to perform in Sweden during 2018.
We need your help to ensure that Deeds not Words can be premiered in 2017 for the people of the Hebrides.
Who are Rural Nations Scotland CIC?
Rural Nations Scotland CIC is an artist led production company based in Stornoway, we commision new work in theatre & film with teams of artists and makers from across the UK.
Under the leadership of Creative Director Muriel Ann Macleod, Rural Nations Scotland delivers the annual Hebrides International Film Festival (HIFF) and supports rural area performances through Arts nan Eilean. Writer Toria Banks has worked on two other island originated plays, Roghainn na Daoine (with John Wright) and We have Won the Land (2013). Muriel Ann Macleod has over 20 years experience of commissioning, directing and producing Island originated plays. From the first community play Portrona by Norman Malcolm Macdonald (1997) to directing work like An Clo Mor by Henry Adam, Callanish Stoned by Kevin MacNeil and We have won the Land. Currently Deeds not Words is still being cast. The singers will be Mary Ann Kennedy and Josie Duncan. The set and costumes for the show are being designed by young Scottish designer, Fraser Lappin.
How is the money being spent?
As the play is now reaching completion we aim to raise £6000 to match the small grants we already have in place. In order to mount performances, in collaboration with An Lanntair Arts Centre and for one week's tour to: Bernera Community Centre, Leverburgh Hall, Carinish Hall, Stoneybridge Hall and Castlebay Community Hall.
The money will be used to pay the artists wages, hire the tour equipment, make the set and costumes (with local makers) and pay for accommodation for rehearsals in Stornoway and for the tour. The show is being presented at a professional level with Equity contracts and industry standard payments. Rural Nations are committed to making the work locally so that everything is originated on the Islands.
Images of Fish Gutters and Stornoway: Thanks to Stornoway Historical Society
Family group: Thanks to Murdo Macleod and the Tormod an t-Seoladair collection
Cooks image: Thanks to the National Army Museum
Nurses at field hospital : WW1 images