Bid to perform Emily Davison play in Houses of Parliament

ORGANISERS of a play about famed suffragette Emily Davison are hoping to honour her achievements by performing it inside the Houses of Parliament.

ORGANISERS of a play about famed suffragette Emily Davison are hoping to honour her achievements by performing it inside the Houses of Parliament.

Davison, whose family home was at Morpeth, Northumberland, became a martyr in the battle for votes for women after she ran in front of the runners during the Epsom Derby and was trampled by the horse belonging to King George V.

She died from her injuries on June 8, 1913, and a play commemorating the 100th anniversary of her death, called To Freedom’s Cause, is to premiere in Morpeth later this month.

But organisers also hope to bring the performance to Parliament – scene of another of Davison’s protests.

On the day of the 1911 census she hid in a cupboard in the Palace of Westminster – so that on the census form she could legitimately say her place of residence that night was the Houses of Parliament.

The act is commemorated with a plaque in the crypt of the Houses of Parliament, placed there by Labour veteran Tony Benn in 1999.

And Kate Willoughby, who wrote To Freedom’s Cause and stars in the play as Emily Wilding Davison, hopes to put on a special performance there.

She said: “After opening in Morpeth we’re taking the play on a tour of places important in Emily’s life – including Downview women’s prison near Epsom – and finishing in London.

“Staging it in Parliament is something we’d love to do. There’s goodwill on all sides, we’ve got all party support, we’re just trying to get the practicalities sorted.

“It seems the right thing to do.”

Davison spent much of her life in London – but she was a daughter of the North East, said Ms Willoughby.

“Though she was born in London she was a woman of Northumberland as well.

“She would go there to her parents’ house after she’d been beaten to a pulp in prison or on demonstrations. That was where she got her strength and her character from.”

Channel 4 are set to screen a documentary fronted by Claire Balding to mark the centenary, and there is also a festival taking place in London.

Ms Willoughby said: “The interest today doesn’t surprise me. The streets in London and Northumberland were thronged for her funeral. She stirred something in people that still resonates today.

“And the issues she campaigned for are still live today. As a suffragette she wasn’t just interested in votes for women but for equal rights more broadly and for what is right.”

However, the play focuses on Davison as a person as well as her campaign.

“When I first came to the do the play I did some research at the Women’s Library. I came across her mothers’ last letter to her sent after the Derby when Emily was in hospital. She was angry, emotional and upset and you got the sense of a mother-daughter relationship.

“Emily Wilding Davison has this image as quite dour, she’s either a super villain or a super heroine depending on your point of view. I wanted to look beyond that. The play concentrates on the mother-daughter relationship but it also looks at her close friends.”

The play premieres in Morpeth on June 14 as part of the Emily Inspires festival of events across Northumberland celebrating Davison. It will also be performed in Newcastle, Ashington, Rothbury, Newbiggin, Alnwick and Riding Mill in June, before five performances in the Tristan Bates theatre in London.

For more information go to www.katewilloughby.co.uk

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