THE SYLVIA PANKHURST FESTIVAL WEEKEND
Woodford, July 2007
An afternoon of talks,
a mini-exhibition and a new play
On 8 July 2007, an event took place at Bancroft’s School, Woodford, to celebrate Sylvia Pankhurst. Entitled ‘The Indefatigable Miss Pankhurst’, the series of talks was introduced and chaired by Linda Perham. The Worshipful the Mayor of Redbridge, Cllr Mrs Joyce Ryan, gave a formal welcome followed by the Chair of Epping Forest District Council, Cllr Mrs Caroline Pond.
Sylvia’s biographer Shirley Harrison outlined Sylvia’s life and achievements after Linda Perham’s introduction. This was followed by a presentation of memories with a slideshow by Shirley with the Very Revd Dr John Arnold, OBE, entitled Woodford in Sylvia’s Time. Rita Pankhurst, wife of Sylvia’s son, talked about Sylvia and Ethiopia and Prof. Germaine Greer gave a talk called Feminism is Not Enough.
The story of Sylvia’s ‘Stone Bomb’, the anti-airwarfare monument erected in 1935, was told by Prof. Patrick Wright and finally all the speakers shared in a group discussion led by Linda Perham.
The event included a fascinating display by the Redbridge Museum and a selection of Sylvia’s paintings, photographed and loaned by William Alderson. The same weekend Who is Sylvia?, a biographical play written and performed by Bridget Wood, was premiered at the Redbridge Drama Centre and ran for three nights.
Special guests at the Sylvia Pankhurst Festival weekend were the Ethiopian Ambassador, Mr Behanu Kebede, and Sylvia’s son Dr Richard Pankhurst, OBE, who had attended Bancroft’s School when he was a boy – and his family. Dr Pankhurst's 80th year was celebrated at a special dinner later the same day.
Professor Germaine Greer gives a tribute to Dr Richard Pankhurst in an after-dinner speech
Cllr Caroline Pond, Dr Richard Pankhurst, Rita Pankhurst, the Mayor of Redbridge Cllr Mrs Joyce Ryan, and former MP and previous Redbridge Mayor, Linda Perham
ABOUT THE SPEAKERS
Prof. GERMAINE GREER was born in Australia and educated at Melbourne and Sydney Universities before coming to England where she studied at Cambridge for her PhD. Her first book, The Female Eunuch (1969), took the world by storm and remains one of the most influential texts of the feminist movement. She has had a distinguished academic career, and makes regular appearances in the media as a broadcaster, journalist, columnist and reviewer. Since 1988 she has been Director of Stump Cross Books, publishing lesser-known works by early women writers.
LINDA PERHAM is a former MP and former Mayor of Redbridge. Before turning to politics she was a librarian at the Women's Library, having previously worked at the London Metropolitan University under Rita Pankhurst. Linda is a Justice of the Peace and an active force on many committees. She chairs East Living which offers supported housing for vulnerable people, and she is a Consumer Director of TrustMark, promoting standards in home maintenance. Linda has been a very active force in gaining wider recognition of Sylvia Pankhurst within the Borough of Redbridge.
SHIRLEY HARRISON, born and brought up in Woodford, began broadcasting as a teenager in 1954 with BBC Radio's Uncle Mac on Children’s Hour before writing for various magazines and newspapers, later turning to books. She is the first author of a comprehensive biography of Sylvia Pankhurst to have had the full cooperation of the Pankhurst family, as well as access to a number of previously unpublished documents. Sylvia Pankhurst, a Maverick Life 1882–1960 was published in 2004. Other recent books include Jack the Ripper: the American Connection (2003).
The Very Revd. Dr JOHN ARNOLD, OBE, is the former Dean of Durham. His mother was Ivy Arnold, Sylvia Pankhurst's personal secretary during World War II. John trained as an interpreter in the Intelligence Corps and then read Modern Languages and Theology at Cambridge. He has long been involved in the quest for church unity and international reconciliation, and is author of numerous reviews and articles on literary and theological topics. He is author of the Archbishop of Canterbury's Lent Book for 2008, Life Conquers Death.
RITA PANKHURST is an academic librarian by profession, and married to Dr Richard Pankhurst, Sylvia's son. Born in Roumania but educated in England, she joined Richard (and Sylvia) to live in Ethiopia from 1956. Rita was chief librarian at Haile Selassie I University until 1976, when the couple came back to London for a period. Then as chief librarian for what is now the London Metropolitan University, she helped acquire the Fawcett Library for them (now the Women's Library) and worked there until she and Richard moved back to Ethiopia in 1987.
Prof. PATRICK WRIGHT is a writer and broadcaster with a particular interest in Eric Benfield, sculptor of Sylvia Pankhurst’s anti-air warfare monument of 1936. Patrick is author of a number of books, most recently Tank: the Progress of a Monstrous War Machine and Iron Curtain: From Stage to Cold War. He is currently collaborating with film-maker Patrick Keiller on a three-year project about the British landscape. Patrick Wright is a Professor at the Institute of Cultural Analysis, Nottingham Trent University. Visit www.patrickwright.net