CHRIS FREMANTLE

What art have I seen?

Posted in News, Sited work by chrisfremantle on June 15, 2014

Causeway might have been about events from 100 years ago, but it spoke to political activism today, and connected back to Robert Burns’ own politics (remember the unsubstantiated story that Burns might have been involved in gun running to the French Revolutionaries?).  The conversations could have been happening amongst any group of serious activists, such as on the Rainbow Warrior or amongst WTO or G8 protestors.

Activists will eventually come up against the questions the Suffragettes were facing in 1914 when, 10 years after the formation of the Women’s Social and Political Union, and forty years after the first Suffrage organisation in Britain, nothing was changing.  Politicians were prevaricating.  Activists were being told to go home and mind the children.

Frances Parker, Lord Kitchener’s niece) and Ethel Moorhead (an established artist) had already burnt down a stand at Ayr Racecourse.  They had broken windows, trashed police cells and had both been in prison and had both been force fed.  They were ‘turbulent’.

Victoria Bianchini and David Overend (writer and director/producer respectively) and Pamela Reid, Annaliese Broughton and Jamie McGeechan (aka Little Fire) (the performers), drew out the commitment through the reimagined experience of cycling 38.9 miles from Glasgow to Alloway, through the arguments about what can make a difference, what is legitimate protest, how to achieve social change.

The personal relationship between Parker and Moorhead was evoked beautifully.  It was sharply drawn through Moorhead’s guilt at leaving Parker in the hands of the nightwatchman when they were caught with the bombs at the Cottage.  Parker was put in Perth Prison and particularly brutally force fed when she went on hunger strike.  Moorhead’s trauma on seeing Parker’s bruised and battered body when they were reunited was powerful stuff, as was Parker’s statement to the Court.

Parker and Moorhead wanted equality (as did Robert Burns in his time).  It is The Establishment that’s the enemy, as it was 250 years ago when Burns wrote ‘A Man’s A Man For All That’, as it was 100 years ago for the Suffragettes, and as it is now for Occupy.  And Burns Cottage (not the man himself) was a symbol of The Establishment, of The Club that privileged men.

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