DSW Arts Waymarkers

Dreadnought South West – Arts Waymarkers

One of our ambitions as we were beginning was to include as many women's voices as possible into the mix of Dreadnought South West. So we invited Exeter based artists Catherine Cartwright and Nicci Wonnacott to join the conversation. One of their ideas was to work with women's groups across the South West region to produce banners that might inform the scenography of our touring show 'Oxygen'. What has emerged is a beautifully laid out process of finger stitching and storytelling, with the route map of the pilgrimage being stitched and used as a physical object in episodes of the play. This adds another layer to the texture of the project for us and reaches out beyond the theatre show.  When the map was handed over to us in the rehearsal room by women who have been instrumental in the stitching of the route, we felt the presence of the stories shared, their laughter, their tears, but most of all their tenacity and courage.  Thank you to all who stitched.

Image Gallery (click to view larger versions):

Dreadnought SW – Waymarker project for "Oxygen", a new play by Natalie McGrath to celebrate the centenary of the The Great 1913 Suffrage Pilgrimage.

Our journey has begun. That is, the creation of the giant map showing the south west route taken by the women on the The Great 1913 Suffrage Pilgrimage from Lands End to Hyde Park. "Oxygen" will take a similar touring route 100 years to the day. The route is defined by the fingerknitted knots stitched onto the map. Each knot representing a step of the estimated 100,000 taken on the pilgrimage.

The map itself is scrim, and scrim is the traditional wiping fabric of the printmaker. As a printmaker I know that its open weave is for a consistent wiping of an intaglio plate. The scrim is important for this map because its open weave means that each venue or location is integral within the scenography, and its starchy stiffness ensures the map remains 'map-like'.

More important than all of this symbolism are the women who are finger knitting the route. Artist Nicci Wonnacott and I are are leading waymarker projects with marginalised women affected by domestic abuse. We began in Exeter, with inspiring sessions with SAFE (Stop Abuse for Everyone)  and Exeter SEEDs (Survivors Empowering and Education Domestic Abuse Services) and we will be in Cornwall with WRASAC (Women's Rape & Sexual Abuse Centre). Integral to the story of "Oxygen" is raising questions about the Great Pilgrimage's contemporary relevance. The Great Pilgrimage of 1913 was conceived as a mass mobilisation to urge Prime Minister Asquith to hear the Suffragists concerns, the reasons why women should have the vote and a voice. It worked and the rally in Hyde Park 26th July 1913 resulted in a deputation to Prime Minister Asquith. The Waymarker projects are an opportunity to question whether women's lives have changed for the better or worse since 1913, and to raise awareness of how powerful womens' voices and action can be. 

Catherine Cartwright