Events to celebrate Emily’s life and what she stood for

Launch of Emily Wilding Davison writing competition at the Curiously Wicked Edwardian Tea Room at Sanderson Arcade, Morpeth, with (left to right) Rachel Cochrane from listenupnorth.com and Penni Blythe-Jones-Programme Co-ordinator.
Launch of Emily Wilding Davison writing competition at the Curiously Wicked Edwardian Tea Room at Sanderson Arcade, Morpeth, with (left to right) Rachel Cochrane from listenupnorth.com and Penni Blythe-Jones-Programme Co-ordinator.
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EMILY Wilding Davison has gone down in history as the Suffragette who died after running onto the track at the Epsom Derby and being struck by the King’s horse.

But in the centenary of her death, commemorations in Morpeth will show that there is much more to the ‘wild and lawless lassie’, as she was sometimes dubbed.

Last week, the Herald reported how new publications about the Longhorsley resident are correcting the misconception that the Suffragette deliberately committed suicide on that fateful day in June 1913, with new research finding information that suggests Emily’s death was far more likely a tragic accident.

Now we take a look at the Emily Inspires programme of events that aims to give a clearer picture of the real woman behind the image.

Emily Davison Working Group Chairman Andrew Tebbutt said: “This is not just a commemoration of Emily’s death, it is a celebration of her life and what she stood for.

“Emily was a highly intelligent woman who had a degree.

“She was a prolific and very competent writer, she loved music and dancing, she loved the countryside and her bicycle and she was also quite religious.

“Bearing all those elements in mind, we will see that they are worked into the programme over the weeks and months ahead.”

The programme was launched on International Women’s Day last month and a writing competition in Emily’s honour is already under way.

This week, the Morpeth Northumbrian Gathering has adopted Emily and Northumberland women as one of its themes

It features a Suffragette morris dance developed by lecturer Hester Reeve and A North Country Lass concert including BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards winner Emily Portman, women’s choir Werca’s Folk and one of Emily’s family members Gemma Telfer.

There is a workshop on North East Women’s Songs, the pageant will include Suffragettes and there is an anti-suffrage rally by children who have been working with Woodhorn and Beamish museums.

On April 18, the focus shifts to Epsom, where a commemorative plaque will be unveiled at Tattenham Corner where Emily’s accident happened.

The plaque is made from oak from Earl Grey’s estate in Howick, where Emily had family.

It will be unveiled by 19-year-old Lauren Caisley, one of Emily’s relatives, and the ceremony will be attended by around 50 family members, including the De Baeckers from France, who are the descendants of Emily’s sister Letitia.

A 13-strong Northumberland delegation will also be there.

Later this month, a series of workshops will be held in county schools about a new play by Kate Willoughby, To Freedom’s Cause, and the theme of transition.

The play looks at the relationship between Emily and her mother Margaret.

Emily Inspires Director Penni Blythe-Jones said: “The play was prompted by Kate finding a letter in the Women’s Library from Margaret to Emily when she was in Epsom Hospital. It is about the mother-daughter relationship.

“Margaret was very supportive of Emily, but in the letter she is very angry that this could have happened to her daughter. Her mother completely understood Emily’s views, but she was naturally concerned and worried about her.”

The Suffragettes often met in tea rooms to discuss their campaigns, so on May 23, Curiously Wicked in Sanderson Arcade will host a Suffragette tea party. It is hoped that other Morpeth cafés will hold similar events.

On June 1, it is Derby day and a Northumberland delegation has been invited as special guests.

The racecard will include a feature about Emily and will direct people to the nearby Bourne Hall Museum where there will be an exhibition about her life.

On June 8 and 9, Morpeth Antiquarian Society will present an exhibition in Morpeth Town Hall about women and Suffragettes.

It will include the scarf Emily wore on the day of her accident, which is being brought from its usual home in the House of Commons.

Leading up to the centenary of Emily’s Morpeth burial there will be a concert by Werca’s Folk and the premiere of To Freedom’s Cause will be staged at the Riverside Leisure Centre on the eve of the anniversary.

The main focus of the programme is Saturday, June 15 – 100 years to the day of Emily’s burial.

The day will begin with performances in the Market Place by the band of the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, Werca’s Folk and The Ranters.

And there will be a Bikes and Bonnets bike ride from Longhorsley to Morpeth by 100 women.

Ms Blythe-Jones said: “Emily was a keen cyclist. For the Suffragettes the development of the bicycle was an aspect of freedom and they used them very much.”

The cyclists will join a procession from Morpeth Railway Station to St Mary’s Churchyard, which aims to re-create events of 100 years ago when thousands lined the streets to pay tribute to Emily.

It will include family members, children, councillors, business representatives, MPs, Werca’s Folk, the Fusiliers and members of the working group.

In total, up to 200 people could be involved and members of the public are invited to line the route, dressed in 1913 costume.

It is said that at Emily’s burial procession, there were so many people that lines were backed up to the Tap and Spile pub in Manchester Street.

After the anniversary procession there will be a service at St Mary’s, with speakers Geoffrey Davison, who is head of the family, Baroness Helena Kennedy, former Chancellor of Oxford Brookes University, and Eleanor Mills, Associate Editor of the Sunday Times.

There will then be a procession to Emily’s grave.

The anniversary will end with a second performance of To Freedom’s Cause, before it tours Newcastle, Northumberland, Richmond, Downview Women’s Prison in Epsom and Covent Garden. There is also the possibility that it may be staged in the Houses of Parliament.

However, the programme does not end there.

Beamish Open Air Museum will have a Suffragette event on June 29 and 30, and on July 10, an Emily Inspires Aspiration and Enterprise session will take place at St Benet Biscop’s High School in Bedlington where women in business and the community will lead workshops with 60 female students.

Other activities include pupils making Suffragette banners, lectures, workshops, Morpeth In Bloom planting based on the Suffragette colours and the creation of an Emily Davison mural.

There will be Suffragette bunting, while shops will make special window displays.

Morpeth’s Picnic In The Park will also have an Emily theme and St Christopher’s House has requested an event to tie in with residents’ reminiscence afternoons.

In Longhorsley, there will be special celebrations at Village Day and the parish council hopes to replace a plaque to Emily.

Mr Tebbutt said: “People are beginning to use the Emily Inspires programme to develop their own activities, which is exactly what we wanted to happen.

“It was never about just standing around a cemetery, we wanted to encourage people to do things.”

For information about the Emily Inspires programme, visit www.emilyinspires.co.uk