Women East: The Next 100

Women East is a group that empowers women in East London through arts and politics. Their founder, Nicola, tells us about their most recent event: The Next 100.

"2018 marked 100 years since the first group of women got the vote. Working at Poplar HARCA and learning about the political history in East London, suffragettes like Sylvia Pankhurst and Minnie Lansbury inspired me. Looking back made me want to look forward to what we can achieve in the next 100 years. I started a project called Women East to celebrate the women creating change in East London today.

Starting with a community art project run with artist Emma Curd, we used a derelict space on Stroudley Walk to run workshops as part of her ‘Visible Voices’ project.  This location in Stroudley Walk happened to be where Sylvia Pankhurst gave her first speech for the East London Federation of Suffragettes. Sylvia was also an artist – her combination of art and politics intrinsically connected to the theme of voice. Both can be used as tools for expressing ourselves, making ourselves heard and effecting change. We created a safe and creative space for local women, a place that was about them – even if they just came in for a cup of tea. Space is a word that came up frequently at our event last month, The Next 100.

 

The event's speakers & children taking part in the 'Zine' workshop (representing the event through arts & crafts).

Off the back of the centenary, I wanted to hold an event that celebrated how far we had come since we got the vote. We had five fantastic speakers, all working to help women in East London. Two themes kept recurring in that night’s conversation. The need for space, and unity through diversity. It became clear that as women, we must speak up for each other, make space for each other and create platforms for each other. I think if Sylvia and Minnie were there that night to watch this room full of East End women, they would feel proud of the progress we have made. Bringing things full circle, Helen Pankhurst, Sylvia’s granddaughter, chaired the discussion.

I’ve been able to bring together women from different parts of Poplar HARCA and East London. London’s strength is in its diversity and if we all work together, I believe we can create real change and opportunities for each other. This isn’t my day job – and it goes to show that no matter what your position or place in an organisation or society – we all have strengths, skills and passions that are needed. We can all be Women East.

In this spirit, my next step is creating a network of women across East London. A big gang that could be something of a unity ticket for this creative, diverse and special part of London."

To join the gang and get the latest updates, follow Women East on Twitter.

 

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