Alice Hawkins was the Leicester leader of the Suffragettes, a shoemaker and a lifelong socialist.
The political powers of this era included Alice in the “Voice and Vote” exhibition in 2017, just where the brave woman was arrested first by the political authorities of the 20th century outside Westminster Hall in 1907.
Leicester marketplace now has a statue of Alice Hawkin, bought and paid for by a local businessman who now owns the building where Alice was part of the Equity Shoes workforce.
As you might be able to tell, I found the Edinburgh Festival Fringe presentation of Alice Hawkins Suffragette – A Sister for Freedom held in the Arthur Conan Doyle Centre interesting enough to take notes. It helps that I only recently finished book three of the Hope Stapleford Mystery series by Edinburgh author Caroline Dunford, but I’m very much interested in the importance of voting in today’s political and social climate.
There’s an Edinburgh connection to Alice Hawkins’s story, and I sat in an audience which was primarily women, but not exclusively so. I wish more youngsters had been there to see how hard women have had to fight to get the vote and how hard they are still fighting to get equal pay.
Amazingly, presenting the story is Peter Barratt, who is Alice’s great-grandson, and then there’s voice actress Ruth Pownall. Pownall is dressed as a Suffragette, represents Alice in the talk (so it’s not a guy, even a blood relative, doing it all), and does so impressively well! Ruth Pownall’s voice acting talents are considerable, what clear oration.
What to expect
Expect chairs in front of an old-school projector (not a cell projector, but one with a laptop plugged in) and a school-style PowerPoint presentation.
Don’t let the format put you off! Barratt’s not only proud of his heritage, he knows the history and has done this presentation often enough to be confident and skilled at it.
Peter takes us through slides of this family’s archive on Alice Hawkins. That archive exists because Alice kept postcards, records of all the times she was arrested and was important enough to have historical records.
Alice knew the Pankhursts. There are photographs of them together and letters between the families, and they appeared to have extensively for the cause. We’re not learning about some two-bit player here; Alice was a force.
Vibe and performance
I’ve seen a bucket of Edinburgh Festival Fringe shows, and Alice Hawkins – Suffragette was the most school presentationy of them all. Thankfully, that vibe does not come across as a bad thing here. Instead, we’re seriously learning about a significant player in Suffragette history.
The preparation that’s gone into Alice Hawkins – Suffragette is even a welcome contrast to some of the ‘just wing it and all it impro’ I’ve also sat through this year.
Peter Barratt, who will turn 70 in a year or two, is full of energy or at least passion for the topic, and the audience feels that. He does the legacy of his great-grandmother justice.
I can’t imagine the performance/piece without Ruth Pownall, though. What a clever touch! What a great way to spice up and thoroughly improve the nearly hour-long history trip.
We must not forget that the fight the Suffragettes started is still going, and Alice Hawkins, her great-grandson Petter Barratt and talented Ruth Pownall will remind us.
Alice Hawkins – Suffragette is a schoolroom-style presentation that held my attention from start to finish. The mix of nationally significant news and family impact is perfectly managed.
I expected to like the storytelling of Suffragette Alice Hawkins a little; I liked it a lot.
A review of Alice Hawkins – Suffragette