Curated by Susan Croft for SuffrageArts / Unfinished Histories
The Brockway Room Conway Hall
The exhibition explores feminist activism through posters from Women’s Liberation Workshops in the borough and how the arts and especially theatre contributed to the local feminist scene. Its focus is on Camden, but its resonance is much wider. Camden was at the heart of the emergence of the early WLM: the Women’s Liberation Movement in London with two of the earliest WLM groups in the country set up in 1969 in Belsize Lane and in Tufnell Park, on the Camden/ Islington border. Both followed a radical, alternative, left-wing politic, influenced by existing campaigns such as Vietnam Solidarity. The Belsize Lane group were central to the organisation of the first WLM conference at Ruskin College in 1970 and the publication of The Body Politic. For many the movement transformed their lives and future focus. They went on to set up a community nursery, artists’ co-ops, and feminist newspapers including Shrew and Red Rag.
Fifty years on the exhibition celebrates the work of those early groups, and the posters they created in support of the first WLM march in 1971, the first to mark International Women’s Day in Britain since its founding in 1909. It also explores the importance of feminist theatre in the borough, where the extensive squatting scene, including arts centres, community hubs, artist’s studios and printshops, as well as homes, enabled the growth of numerous alternative theatre companies including many feminist groups, from Sadista Sisters to Beryl and the Perils and Spare Tyre and venues like the Drill Hall or the Women’s Arts Alliance. Some remain active like Kentish Town-based Clean Break, working with women ex-offenders to provide training and create plays about their experience. The exhibition features a poster for the first WLM play staged in Britain Vagina Rex and the Gas Oven by Jane Arden was staged at the Arts Lab Drury Lane in February 1969, along with posters celebrating later areas of activism including the campaign to get more women into manual trades and support for the Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp.
Curated by Dr Susan Croft, the exhibition is staged by Unfinished Histories a project documenting alternative theatre history in conjunction with SuffrageArts, which work to foreground the role of the arts in the women’s suffrage campaign and recently staged the exhibition A Stone’s Throw from Westminster: Suffragettes and Other Feminists in Camden. If you would like further information or to support future projects, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
Watch this space for news of future accompanying events!
Gallery Opening Hours
Fri 21 June, 3.30-9pm
Sat 22 June, 9am-5pm
Sun 23 June – closed
Mon 24 – Fri 28, restricted access due to piano auctions
Sat 29 June, 6-10pm
Sun 30 June, 9am-1pm
Ground floor. Brockway Room. Fully accessible.