From an Indian princess in Hampton Court to young workers in a Yorkshire mill, the Suffrage movement divided the British nation. Suffragettes suffered police brutality, force feeding and repeated arrest. It was time for them to learn to defend themselves. Suffrajitsu is the true story of a diverse set of suffragettes who were trained in Jiu Jitsu by Edith Garrud, a small, slight woman from Lancashire. Jiu Jitsu is a defensive martial art that uses the strength of the attacker against them - perfect for slight women against taller, stronger men. Women were trained to defend themselves and others and formed an elite group – 'The Bodyguard' to protect the formidable Pankhursts.
Our show will be created using unique puppetry, crafted storytelling and strong imagery. It will tour schools and theatres in autumn 2018 and beyond and will be created with input from local schools and community groups.
The suffragettes used much more than the famous violent methods. They were often witty, creative and determined. They attempted to enter the houses of parliament via the postal service, by disguise and by airship. They leafleted London from a hot air balloon. They pilgrimaged on foot to the capital from every corner of the country culminating in a mass demonstration of thousands in Hyde Park.
This show will be a co-production between two age-old puppetry companies; Horse + Bamboo Theatre in Rossendale and Little Angel Theatre in Islington. Horse + Bamboo have been making visual theatre since 1978. 2018, our 40th year, is the same year as the centenary of the Representation of the People Act which gave the first group of women the vote. Little Angel celebrated their 50th anniversary in 2011. It continues to command international respect for the artistic quality of its productions, and is dearly loved by children and adults alike.
In 2018 we have to think differently about fundraising for theatre development. We have Arts Council funding to cover the additional costs needed to create the show, but we must also ask for support from you. We are a registered charity and as such we are overseen by the Charities Commission.
One of our rewards is a choice of exclusive signed print. The two images are below have been created specifically for the show by Gretchen Maynard-Hahn, our Visual Director and puppet-maker.
It is vital that we tell the story of these strong women, to show how each person's different driving force – be it stamina like Milicent Garrett-Fawcett, passion like the Pankhursts or creativity like The Women's Freedom League and so many of the lesser known heroines – that every one of us has something to offer that can change the world for the better. We will tell this story with the feisty flare it deserves, with superhero slow mo, montages fit for Rocky, a plethera of 'bop's, 'biff's and 'kapow's and a knowledge that every young audience member can be the next hero of our time.
Suffrajitsu will celebrate this ingenious, creative and diverse movement.