At the front and centre of the Edinburgh procession were staff and students from Edinburgh College of Art (ECA) and the University of Edinburgh, marching behind a specially commissioned banner masterminded by ECA Textiles Programme Director Lindy Richardson.
Lindy was one of 100 female artists asked to create a banner for the landmark occasion. As well as women from the University community, Lindy worked with women prisoners from Cornton Vale in Stirling. This collaborative, inclusive approach resulted in a truly unique, and political, textile artwork.
During a series of workshops at ECA and Cornton Vale, Lindy asked participants to embroider their take on issues around equality and diversity on a circular piece of fabric or rosette, following group discussions on the topics.
Taking centre stage on the completed banner is a transparent centre panel which reads ‘Every One is Equal’. On either side slogans such as ‘Dump Trump’ and ‘Brain on Board’ sit amongst embroidered portraits of inspiring women such as suffragette Emily Pankhurst, human rights activist Malala Yousafzai, artists Frida Kahlo and Yayoi Kasuma, and Grunwick striker Jayaben Desai. Still more serve as a poignant reminder that prisoners in the UK are not allowed to vote.
Lindy said: “Despite numerous recommendations by the Court of Human Rights, British prisoners are still denied the right to vote. For me, this group of prisoners represent the disenfranchised women of the 21st century.”
Also included in the overall artwork are a number of wearable embroidered placards made by second year textiles students, conveying messages such as ‘They Fought, We Vote’ and ‘We Will Not be Silent’.
And finally, in a nod to the University’s very first group of inspiring women students, Lindy has created a series of pennants featuring the names of the ‘Edinburgh Seven’, the first group of matriculated undergraduate female students at any British university.
Acting ECA Principal Stuart Bennett said: “It was a treat to see our staff and students leading the way yesterday. A truly memorable participatory artwork and moment – congratulations to all involved.”
Lindy will take her artwork to Cornton Vale this summer, where the prisoners will stage their own procession, followed by discussion groups and a viewing of the footage on the project. The banner, tabards and pennants will be displayed at the University during the next academic year.
PROCESSIONS was commissioned by 14-18 NOW, the UK’s arts programme for the First World War centenary and produced by Artichoke. The Edinburgh event was supported by the Scottish Government and the City of Edinburgh Council, along with a number of other sponsors.