Register for 'once in a lifetime' commemoration of women's suffrage in Belfast

Individuals are invited to take part in PROCESSIONS – a mass 'living portrait' marking the historic milestone in conjunction with the UK's other capital cities

Suffrage procession, Frederick Street. Courtesy of LSE Library

Registration opens today, International Women’s Day (March 8), for PROCESSIONS, one of the UK’s largest ever mass participation artworks, which will take place simultaneously across the four UK capitals on Sunday June 10 2018. PROCESSIONS is produced by Artichoke and commissioned by 14-18 NOW, the UK’s arts programme for the First World War centenary, and will mark one hundred years since the first British women won the right to vote.

Women of all ages – including those who identify as women and non-binary individuals - are invited to register here to take part in this once-in-a-lifetime living artwork which will celebrate a historic moment for gender equality and create a dramatic portrait of women in the 21st century.

On June 10, participants in Belfast, will walk together in their tens of thousands. Given green, white or violet to wear, to represent the colours of the suffrage movement and standing for 'Give Women Votes', they will together appear as a vast river of colour flowing through the capital’s streets. At the heart of PROCESSIONS will be specially created banners, echoing those carried by suffrage campaigners.

In the months leading up to PROCESSIONS Belfast, participants are invited to take part in a nationwide creative programme of banner-making workshops, or to create banners at home using a toolkit designed by contemporary banner-maker Clare Hunter which takes inspiration from a 1909 pamphlet by suffragette artist Mary Lowndes.

Mary Lowndes Album. Courtesy of LSE Library

Mary Lowndes Album. Courtesy of LSE Library

Artichoke have announced 100 organisations across the UK, including 14 organisations across Northern Ireland, who will be working with commissioned female, female-identifying and non-binary artists to create 100 unique banners for PROCESSIONS. Artists will facilitate workshops with a chosen community group or groups to create these expressive artworks, reflecting the hopes and concerns of women today. Participating artists include one of Northern Ireland's foremost painters Rita Duffy, Lesley Cherry and Lucy Turner.

100 Years 100 Banners partners are spread across the breadth of Northern Ireland from Belfast to Ballymena and Derry. They encompass local and national charities and arts organisations, including National Museums NI, The Braid Arts Centre, The Institute for Conflict Research and the Centre for Contemporary Art. Their workshops aim to reach a diverse body of women stretching across all ages, backgrounds, beliefs, geographies and sexualities, with the resulting banners providing a snapshot of women’s experiences today.

Many of the organisations based in Northern Ireland have chosen to work with groups of women who have made a significant contribution to the lives of other women in their community. Other organisations will be working with groups of women who continue to be disenfranchised in 2018, helping give a voice to women within the criminal justice system, victims of domestic abuse, homeless women, and women seeking refuge or asylum.

The Institute for Conflict Research are working with one of Northern Ireland’s most celebrated living artists Rita Duffy to create a banner. Dr Katy Radford MBE said: 'The Institute for Conflict Research is proud to be working with artist Rita Duffy RUA and Northern Irish women from rural and coastal communities from Armagh to the Ards Peninsula. For their banner, participants have chosen to rework and subvert Botticelli's “Birth of Venus” to mark women’s ability to make democratic choices about their bodies, health and well-being, as well as environmental issues that affect them.'

Making banners for a Women's Social & Political Union (WSPU) rally, 1910. Courtesy of LSE Library

In Belfast Arts Ekta and Lorlanda Rocha will collaborate with a group of refugees and asylum seekers from Syria, Somalia, Kurdistan and Zimbabwe with a view to improving emotional health and social well-being through their workshops. Nisha Tandon OBE, Executive Director of ArtsEkta, said: 'We are delighted to be part of this major national event celebrating women in the UK today. Our creative programme works closely with women from the local refugee and asylum community to improve social wellbeing and develop a strong civic identity. PROCESSIONS is an important event to highlight and reinforce the contribution that women from newer communities are making to local society.'

Elsewhere in the capital, Golden Thread Gallery are working with mixed-media artist Lesley Cherry and Kilcooley Women’s Group, based in Bangor County Down. Their banner for PROCESSIONS Belfast will reflect the hopes and concerns of women from the Kilcooley Estate, Northern Ireland’s third largest housing estate, whose residents are predominantly Protestant. Sarah McAvera of Golden Thread Gallery, said: 'Golden Thread Gallery is delighted to be part of the PROCESSIONS national programme ​that celebrates such a positive historical moment. After a year of political turbulence, we ​look forward to remembering that there is more that joins us than divides us.'

In Portadown artist Tonya McMullan has been commissioned by Millenium Court Arts Centre to make a banner, whilst exploring how women’s rights continue to be infringed. Jackie Barker, Director, said: 'We are delighted to have been selected by Artichoke to take part in the PROCESSIONS project. The women's suffrage movement has afforded us all rights and responsibilities to make decisions about the leaders we choose and the policies that we want to support, thereby shaping our towns and cities and the futures of the places that we live.

'It is important 100 years on to be able to have a conversation about what that means to us, how we are represented politically and why women are less likely to invoke their right to vote, even now. Working with artist Tonya McMullan and our education team, we will be attempting to engage in the consideration of such questions with women's groups of various ages across our Borough.'

Suffragettes demonstrating at a by-election. Courtesy of LSE Library

Suffragettes demonstrating at a by-election. Courtesy of LSE Library

In Derry The Playhouse will be working with textile artist Helen Quigley to create a banner drawing upon the city’s longstanding history as a centre for textiles. They will be putting out a city wide call to take part, appealing in particular to the daughters, granddaughters and great granddaughters of the many women in the city who worked in the shirt factories from the early 1930’s to 1990’s.

Pauline Ross, Founding Director of The Playhouse, comments: 'It is not lost on us, here in the Maiden City, how important this opportunity is to celebrate and honour the great women of the past. Thousands of women from this city played a crucial role in the struggle for liberation, as great thinkers, revolutionaries, political activists, mothers, grandmothers, and daughters. Our city’s troubled history, our mark on the textile industry, our creative female contribution cannot be understated. This is why the community has embraced this celebration, they have gathered around us to mark their contribution, to make banners, to tells stories, to communicate and to create in honour of these women. The Playhouse is so proud to be part of such an significant and celebratory mass creation of artwork.'

Arts for All (Belfast), The Braid Arts Centre (Ballymena), Centre For Contemporary Art (Derry), Down Arts Centre (Downpatrick), National Museums NI (Holywood), Prime Cut Productions (Belfast), Reclaim the Agenda (Belfast), R-Space Gallery CIC (Lisburn) and Top Floor Art Gallery (Saintfield) will also all be taking part in PROCESSIONS Belfast.

The project has been made possible with support from Arts Council Northern Ireland. For more information go to