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Sylvia Pankhurst: Everything is Possible
7:30pm, Thursday 1st December 2011
Star and Shadow cinema
Directed by Ceri Dingle & Viv Regan

Star & Shadow Cinema
Sylvia Pankhurst: Everything is Possible
Sylvia Pankhurst: Everything is Possible, is a feature length documentary which, in essay form, traces the context, campaigns and political impact of inspiring suffragette and revolutionary Sylvia Pankhurst. Screening will be introduced by the film-makers and followed by discussion.

The film includes exclusive testimony from Sylvia’s son Richard Pankhurst and his wife Rita as well as interviews with key writers, suffrage historians, archivists and academics. Rare archive footage, photographs, excerpts from security files held on her and illuminating suffrage memorabilia are interwoven to bring alive the life and times of a heroine deserving of far greater recognition.

Over 100 volunteers were involved in making this documentary. The more they researched the more hidden tales they uncovered. Sylvia, for example, set up a people’s army in the East End of London to deal with police brutality along the lines of James Connolly’s Irish Citizens Army. She exposed the executions ordered by British army officers of over 37,900 British army conscripts covered up by the government. Sylvia led deputations of pauperised working women and the elderly to parliament, helped establish Hands off Russia committees after the Russian revolution and established the first Communist party in Britain. Her paper The Woman’s Dreadnought, which became The Workers’ Dreadnought, commissioned the first black journalist, survived attempts to shut it down and featured articles no one else would print such as army officer Siegfried Sassoon’s A Soldier’s Declaration opposing the war. Unlike her mother Emmeline and sister Christabel who supported a limited franchise for upper class women and dropped the fight for votes for women to support and recruit for the First World War, Sylvia refused to sacrifice the fight for universal suffrage until it was won. The breadth of Sylvia’s campaigning and her efforts to assist working class women were extraordinary. During the war she established the first cost price restaurants and nurseries in the East End, set up local toy factories to provide women a decent wage and fought for equal pay in the face of unsympathetic trade unions.

Her opposition to the war and her internationalism were and remain exemplary. With her partner Silvio Corio she commissioned the first anti-war memorial, known as the stone bomb, which still stands today in Woodford, the constituency which hosts a statue of its most famous MP Winston Churchill, a warmonger who vehemently opposed votes for women.

Sylvia’s indefatigable efforts and relentless drive for social change led to her being imprisoned more than any other suffragette. Serious political conviction, she shows us, cannot be quashed by brutal state repression. She believed in abundance for all and opposed every misanthropic trend of the day. Her unique contribution in mobilising the working class to lead the fight for democratic rights puts her as one interviewee in the film says, ‘up there with the angels.’

Towards the end of her life Sylvia’s political campaigning focussed on support for anti colonial struggles and liberation for Black Africa and she died and was buried in Addis Ababa in Ethiopia in 1960. The tributes at her funeral we learn, came from everywhere except Britain.

Tickets £5 / £3.50 concessions / £2 for school students

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© C J M Hewett, 2011