The excitement for me as an artist lies not in exploring the unknown but in how I can effectively organise a visual arrangement that reflects the atmosphere and intensity of an environment, evoking a precise moment of the day under specific light and conditions. I hope you enjoy the work

Feature of the week  28/10/2018

Four Postcards

I was one of 200 women artists invited to submit work for an charity sale taking place on-line and at the Frieze Art Fair in early October. The request was for post cards celebrating the Suffragette movement to be sold anonymously during the event. My aim was to stay as close as possible to my preoccupation of urban landscape.

 

I recalled attending a discussion at the Nunnery Gallery on the work of Albert Turpin of the East London Group. Michael Rosen conducted the event in January this year with one particular contribution commemorating the Bryant and May Match Girls strike, ongoing from 1888. This seemed to provide a way of accommodating both the theme and my concerns, and spurred me on to look at buildings relating to issues regarding women’s fight to get the vote often using industrial action to fight for their rights and/or equal pay. I wanted to remain for the most part in my own ‘patch of the woods’ the East End but eventually I decided to wander further afield to include contemporary events. The four images included here are the result.

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The Bryant and May Match Factory was one of the first notable East End locations where women felt they had to make a stand against the harsh working conditions that often resulted in early death caused by ‘phossy jaw’ as well as appallingly low pay. It was a wage system that could impose heavy fines deducted from the women’s wages for unfair, minor transgressions forced on them by their employers. In 1888 a group of women walked out when one of their number was summarily dismissed for supporting an article by social activist Annie Besant on the consequence of

using white phosphorus in the production of matches. She was quickly re-instated by management but the workers had had enough. They appealed to Annie Besant for support and she helped secure them better pay and eventually, improved working conditions in using white prosperous, finally banning it from being used in the production of matches at the factory in 1901.

Bow Road Police Station. I had painted Bow Police Station as a commission so was familiar with the building and the area. However, when I researched the location further I discovered it was the scene of brutality by the Police when many protesting women came out on marches in support of the Suffragette movement and Sylvia Pankhurst. The arrested protesters were held at Bow Police Station before being transferred to the notorious Holloway prison where they were often force-fed. Sylvia Pankhurst managed to evade arrest on many occasions by being spirited away by local East Enders. The violence towards these protesters was at its height 1912-1913

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The Ford Works, Dagenham. In June 1968 women workers went on strike at the factory. They were car set makers who were informed their jobs were to be downgraded and they would be paid 15% less than their male counterparts. The strike lasted three weeks until the intervention of Barbara Castle and Harold Wilson brought it to an end but even then, they were to be paid 8% less than men in the same category for another year. They did not regain the more skilled C grade until 1984 when in December they downed tools again, supported by the men who refused to do their jobs despite being laid off and the ensuing hardship to themselves 

Ritzy Cinema. Dissatisfaction with working conditions at the Picturehouse chain of cinemas was first expressed in 2007. In July 2017 the Brixton Ritzy made headline news when a dispute against the sacking of three union representatives entered its second year, the strike that ensued spread to other Picturehouses in London and Brighton. The campaign called for a living wage and sick pay for its workers, the majority of whom are women; also the reinstatement of the union workers who had been sacked. This was postcard was the only one not featuring East London and with the least tenuous links to the Suffragette movement.

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