This weekend I'm taking a trip to London to visit the Museum of London who are marking 100 years of (partial) suffrage for Women in the UK 'Votes for Women' . There's obviously a lot of interest on this topic at the moment and recently I did an interview with Melanie Campbell from Radio Solent who is doing an article to broadcast in the near future on Suffragettes of the south coast. I'll let you know when it goes to Air.
In many ways it's a very emotive subject and recent 'outings,' #metoo campaigns and equal pay issues heighten those feelings. They underline the neccessity to never get complacent on issues of gender, equality and oppression.
But there's even more to it for me, as in 2010/11 I worked with some of my lovely friends and colleagues to create a one woman playlet exploring the life of Minnie Baldock. Minnie retired to Poole after sharing platforms with the Pankhursts and having been imprisoned for the cause. Colin and I were researching for another project at the Poole History Centre, part of what used to be the medieval Wool House on Poole Quay. He was flicking through one of the many books on Poole's history there, when suddenly he sidled up to me and said: "I've found our Suffragette!" I had for a long time wanted to look at the suffrage movement in Poole and there she was - one Minnie Baldock! There's a video of the piece here: The Right to Vote Michele O'Brien
I ended up visiting the Museum of London where Minnie's artefacts were held in her own box. Can you imagine the emotions I felt as I was able to touch and read her personal letters to John her son - "to be brave", while his mother was in prison, the most touching and loving words of appreciation to her husband Hal, and letters from upper class patrons inviting Minnie to tea, so that they could hear the voice of the working class woman!
Minnie retired to Lake Road, Hamworthy where they let people camp on their land. It is now land that has the Hamworthy Labour Party Club on it.
I love this photograph of Minnie as a young woman in 1909 and contrasting the wise atmosphere of the later photographs. As part of the project I got to meet Minnie's Granddaughter who still lives in the area and still remembers making apple pies with Minnie (of course they were featured in lovely Kate O'Malley's writing!).
Written by Kate O'Malley.
Directed by Deborah Aita.
Costume by Georgie Lang-Jones.
With thanks to Calling the Shots, the Museum of London and Poole Museum.
So you can see why this year means so much to me and I will be interested to see how the Museum of London interprets material for their family day this Saturday (3 February).
"Shout! Shout! Up with your song,
Cry with the wind, for the dawn is breaking!"
Shout, shout, up with your song!
Cry with the wind, for the dawn is breaking;
March, march, swing you along,
Wide blows our banner, and hope is waking.
Song with its story, dreams with their glory
Lo! they call, and glad is their word!
Loud and louder it swells,
Thunder of freedom, the voice of the Lord!
Long, long—we in the past
Cowered in dread from the light of heaven,
Strong, strong—stand we at last,
Fearless in faith and with sight new given.
Strength with its beauty, Life with its duty,
(Hear the voice, oh hear and obey!)
These, these—beckon us on!
Open your eyes to the blaze of day.
Comrades—ye who have dared
First in the battle to strive and sorrow!
Scorned, spurned—nought have ye cared,
Raising your eyes to a wider morrow,
Ways that are weary, days that are dreary,
Toil and pain by faith ye have borne;
Hail, hail—victors ye stand,
Wearing the wreath that the brave have worn!
Life, strife—those two are one,
Naught can ye win but by faith and daring.
On, on—that ye have done
But for the work of today preparing.
Firm in reliance, laugh a defiance,
(Laugh in hope, for sure is the end)
March, march—many as one,
Shoulder to shoulder and friend to friend.
It's a real treat to be asked to work on somebody else's project.
I met up again with Emma Powell whilst devising 'Land' in the early summer of 2017 and along with Becca Lewis we've been having great fun piecing together:
at Swindon's amazing Museum and Art Gallery
I've been working with actor and collaborator Tam Gilbert, Jenny Gordon and Alastair Nesbitt recently. Using Hellen Keller as a starting to explore visually-impaired women in Dorset, then and now! Researching with source material at the incredibleresource that is Dorset History Centre in Dorchester, we've then taken students from Victoria Education College there and this week delivered some of our findings to a group of students who are home educated at the Priesthouse Museum in Wimborne.
Tam has written a grea piece for the disabityarts online blog and you can read about it here:
I took a visit to one of my favourite places today-Poole Museum-as I was invited to the opening of the new exhibition celebrating the women of Poole old and new. I was very please to see one of my longest standing characters Granny Cousins celebrated and her actual bonnet and lantern, donated by her family after she died. I've known this incredible woman for 20 years now and it is my delight to take groups around the nooks and crannies of Old Town Poole telling tales-she never fails to entertain and inspire. Caroline Jane Cousins (nee Bartlett) had such a sad and hard life. She was forced into the workhouse having left her home in Moreton near Wareham, then experiencing domestic violence and her son's accident on the railway that left him disabled.
Equally as inspirational, was to see Minnie Baldock who retired to Hamworthy in Poole after an incredible life in the Suffragette movement. Minnie shared platforms with the Pankhurts and other eminant women and spent time in prison for the cause with all the horrendous practices that were evident in Edwardian Britain penal system. I loved researching and creating a 40 minute piece with writer Kate O'Malley. There was so much personal material to work with and I'll never forget the moment I opened a box at the Museum of London to find her personal letters. Heart rending letters to her son, explaining why she had to go away; to husband Hal telling him to tay strong; and letters received from Upper Class patrons of the Suffrage cause, who wanted her to attend afternoon teas to represent the working classes.
Later I even met with her Granddaughter who could just remember making apple pies with Minnie her and Hal's home on Lake Road, Hamworthy.
Check out my Storytelling page for a short video of the piece 'Right to Vote' made with Poole Museum at http://www.micheleobrien.co.uk/suffragette-minnie-baldock.html and if you're looking for someone to make your centenary event to mark 'some' women getting the vote, get in touch!
Here's to Minnie and Granny Cousins and all those strong, inspirational women associated with Poole.
Well I'm well into the Halloween shenanigins with 7 days of telling Ghost Stories to thousands of visitors at Corfe Castle. I love my work with the Nataional Trust - the steady flow of cross generational visitors, welcoming and dedicated volunteers and staff and of course the stunning natural and man made beauty that surrounds you all 360 degrees.
There's the constant sqweals of teddy bear zip wire and the menacing threat of the Trebuchay, but we all enjoy huddling together, telling scary tales (age appropriate of course!) and having a little jig and a dance.
This year I've collaborated with the lovely Alice Flynn, a local writer, performer and constant ray of sunshine. Alice worked with us to create a very well received Medieval Tryptic at Corfe Castle for 2016 including the harrowing story of the 'Pelican in her piety' and it was great fun to create additional tales to my existing cache of ghoulish yarns.
Then of course there's teaming up with my right hand man good ole 'Red' (Colin Phillimore on our special 'Halloween Ghost Walks of Old Poole Town'. Although I've been doing the Ghost Walks for 20 years this has been for the summer holidays and group bookings (yes we're always available for your special occasion) -we've had a couple of Hen Nights, and several Social Clubs for local businesses, friendship groups etc. We've even developed special walks for Hamworthy, Wimborne and Christchurch. But the Halloween Walks are literally by popular demand. We were getting so many calls asking when we were doing them we thought - well might as well!
Goodly folk come all dressed up (we even had a man in full Wolverine facial fur one year) and bring lanterns and everything. Red's always got a few extra spooks up his grubby old, fishy old sleeves and it's great to get in the spirit (woooooooo!)
We have to use Eventbrite tickets to avoid overloading the amount of people we have coming and the weather usually stays fair for us.
We're SOLD OUT for this year now, but maybe next year you'll join us eh? or come in the summerholidays on a Wednesday night. Check out comments and photos at the Granny Cousins Ghost Walks of Old Poole Town Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/grannycousins/
Award Winning! Now in its 20th Year.
Halloween walks coming in October...
Tickets via Eventbrite booking sites only, thank you.
Saturday 28 October at 7.00pm
and Monday 30 October at 8.00pm
Dress up as your favourite spooky character and join in the fun...
Bring torches too...
Local Victorian character Granny Cousins and her sidekick 'Red' will take you on an entertaining and informative evening walk telling you about some of the people that have lived, worked and....haunted this ancient fishing port.
“Brilliant walk this evening - thanks Granny! Some great ghost stories, and the history of Poole brought to life. If you are a local or a visitor I'd recommend you get to one of the walks you won't be disappointed!”
Fore more information call: 07977 969080
Meet outside Scaplen's Court Museum, Sarum Street, Poole. Approximately 1 - 1 1/2 hours.
Adults £8, Children £5, Family 2 adults 2 children, £24
I've been working for 18 months on a new project called LAND that will be premiered at Corfe Castle - this Saturday and Sunday. LAND is part of the National Trust's: 'Land, Nature and Outdoors' strategy that is being piloted in the Purbecks, Swanage and Corfe area. The LON Strategy is to engage people in a ten years (and ongoing) relationship with the land management and conservation
I was able to be successful in receiving an Arts Council G4A grant that has ensured a high quality of scriptwriting, directing, making and design.
Starting at Corfe Castle on Saturday 16 and Sunday 17 of September Colin Phillimore and myself will be bringing our work along with Amy Rose (Director), Sarah Corbett, Teresa Grimaldi (Puppets), Chris Perie (Puppeteering advice) alive to thousands of visitors over the next four successive weekends:
Performances are FREE, but you will need to pay the entrance fee for Corfe Castle or use your National Trust membership card.
I am very pleased to take the piece to the Bournemouth Arts by the Sea Festival where I have performed over the last 6 successive years:
Lower Gardens, Bournemouth
The Gardens of Russell-Cotes Museum
Performances are FREE
Associate Artist and award winning actress Michele O’Brien shares her relationship with Gena in this funny, tender, heart-felt performance drawn from workshops across the area. This show is directed by Katherina Radeva.
Wednesday 8th March 2017 @ 8pm
Venue: Sherling Studio, Lighthouse, Poole BH15 1UG
Ticket Box Office: 01202 280000
Before the show there will be a display of photos and an interactive installation.
Friday 10 March 2017 @ 8pm
Venue: Lyric Theatre, 9 Barrack Street, Bridport DT6 1LX
Ticket Box Office: 01308 424240
Doors open @ 7.00pm with an exhibition of the research and work that took place in workshops in Dorset over the last year.
Saturday 11 March @ 11.00am-12.30pm
Venue: Lyric Theatre, 9 Barrack Street, Bridport DT6 1LX
Ticket Box Office: 01308 424240
A free memory workshop for Mothers and Daughters 16yrs+