Thursday, 1 March 2018

Two 2018 Suffrage Banners created in Finchley

Why a banner for Henrietta Barnett? 

Dame Henrietta Barnett wasn’t a suffragette or suffragist, so why did we choose her as the subject of our banner, in honour of 100 years of Women’s Suffrage?

We are a group from ArtsDepot Finchley ( in the London Borough of Barnet. 
Many, but not all of us, belong to the Creative Circle for over 60s, based at ArtsDepot, but working inter-generationally with a teenage group at Chicken Shed, to devise a piece of theatre and art entitled “The Space Between Us” - inspired by a song on the Beatles Sergeant Pepper album (
We talk and write together, but have never before created visual art or sewn together.
Others, some younger, joined us for the banner making project, because they’d seen it advertised at ArtsDepot, locally or on the website of the 100 Banners Project. 

Our banner making group was mostly women, but we also had two men, one in his 80s and one in his 90s. We divided into two groups, both men joined the same group of about six or seven, who decided to make a banner with a clear message - they chose “DEEDS NOT WORDS” - a slogan of the suffragette movement. They have cut and sewn letters, rosettes and other embellishments with historical origins. Keith Martin has written more about this. 

The other seven or eight of us were asked to make something representing our area. As not all of us were from Finchley, our common area was the London Borough of Barnet. We considered the possibility of many different coloured or shaped silhouettes or emblems, to represent one of the most culturally and ethnically diverse areas of the U.K. We considered using the word BARNET in deep turquoise on white tiles as in Borough documents and signs. Then some of us got upset, because we have misgivings about our elected representatives who are known as ‘Easy Council’ (after the no frills airline). We felt that public libraries, which multiplied rapidly in the late 19th Century, (largely through philanthropic actions for mass education), would have been important to women who became suffragists and suffragettes. We therefore decided that we couldn’t promote a Borough who had recently downgraded or closed our libraries. (

So we searched around for a local woman to depict on our banner. We tried to think of local suffragettes and suffragists. 
  • One suggestion was Gladice Keevil Rickford 1884 to 1959 who lived with her family at Clitterhouse Farm in Cricklewood, until her marriage in Hendon in 1913. She was arrested with suffragette leader Emmeline Pankhurst for protesting outside the House of Commons in February 1908 and spent six weeks in Holloway Prison. In a speech in July 1908: "Miss Gladys Keevil..... admitted that some of the doings of the Suffragettes had not been quite lady-like, but she pleaded that they had done nothing unwomanly."
  • Another possibility might have been Barbara Bodichon Ayrton-Gould  1886 to 1950 who was a suffragist and later became Labour MP for Hendon. 
  • If we’d had more time we might have found Miss Muriel Matters, who in 1909 "sailed aloft from Hendon” in the basket of a cigar-shaped balloon, dropping leaflets as she flew to Croydon via Westminster. 
But none of us knew much, if anything, about these women. 

Then we alighted on Dame Henrietta Barnett who seemed perfect, as most of us knew at least a bit about her. Some had relatives or friends who’d attended the girls school named after her. Others had attended classes at her (sadly now defunct) Hampstead Garden Suburb Institute, which had originally been for the education of working folk. I cannot find reference to her attitude to women’s suffrage, but in the early days she was probably too busy and by the time women got the vote she was possibly getting too old. 
Dame Henrietta Octavia Weston Barnett, DBE (née Rowland; 4 May 1851 – 10 June 1936) was a notable English social reformer, educationist, and author. She and her husband, Samuel Augustus Barnett, founded the first "University Settlement" at Toynbee Hall (in the East End of London) in 1884. They also worked to establish the model Hampstead Garden Suburb in the early 20th century. (

Henrietta did much to support women and girls and to promote social equality and education. When living and working at Toynbee Hall, she and her husband worked tirelessly to support the poor mothers and families of the East End of London. Accounts of the Barnetts’ time there read like “Call the Midwife” before Jennifer Worth’s story began. She helped some of them to move to her dream of an integrated community in her Hampstead Garden Suburb. Some of the smaller flats and houses in her garden suburb were built for single women and widows, who would otherwise have been in difficult circumstances. She gave an apple or pear tree to all families taking up residence in Hampstead Garden Suburb, to promote gardening and self sufficiency. 

We knew enough about her to get started and planned to represent Henrietta as a tree, with its roots firmly placed in education (and libraries) for all. Initially we intended just five very uniform apples and pears. As we worked we got more ambitious and the numbers and diversity of apples, pears and leaves increased. They have beads, buttons, sequins, fabric scraps and stitching to make each one unique - like the residents of our multi faceted borough. 

All manner of materials and reminiscences are included in our tree. On one occasion, someone who sewed professionally turned up and made us a beautiful golden pear, so we remembered (and some of us sang) the nursery rhyme which mentions this. One day I was alone, sewing leaves in the bar area at ArtsDepot and a young man on crutches was watching with interest. On the next occasion he brought me a shiny maple leaf sequin to attach and was keen to see where I put it. Another day, an artistic lady, with hands too old and arthritic to sew, really enjoyed arranging and rearranging the unattached apples and pears, she chose the position of the golden pear. Someone had suggested we bring fabric with significance, so I brought a tiny bit of my bedroom curtains (which have seen my children develop from babies to adults), it made a few leaves. Fabric from my daughter’s childhood made flowers below the tree.

We made reference to the London Borough of Barnet by writing Henrietta’s name in the borough’s house style deep turquoise colour - so our banner does say BARNET, in capital letters, in the right colour - but it has an extra T for Henrietta BARNETT. 

It was a challenge to finish in time and on the final day some bits we’d have preferred to sew, had to be glued - but we did it and hope that others enjoy and draw some significance from it. 

Jan Loxley Blount 01 03 18

was a most appropriate slogan chosen by the Suffragette movement in and after 1918 to epitomise their campaign for women to get the vote in Great Britain.
Their epic and heroic campaign, which included breaking unjust laws, was eventually successful.

The motto has resounded down the years and is and has been as relevant to subsequent activists as it was in 1918.

In 1963 the annual CND Easter march from Aldermaston to London included members of the Committee of 100, among them Bertrand Russell who, unafraid and favouring direct action, inspired peace demonstrators by distributing a “Spies for Peace” leaflet and leaving the march to expose the secret details and whereabouts of Regional Seats of Government bunkers at a Berkshire RSG. Bertrand Russell was among those arrested by the police for his beliefs.  

On Maunday Thursday 5 April 2012, coincidentally also at Easter, Barnet Council without notice closed Friern Barnet library, despite a vigorous local campaign to save it from closure.
Five months later on 5 September 2012, a small group of squatters from Camden led by Peter Phoenix walked through an open window, reopened the library and invited the community to join them in restocking its shelves with donated books and reopening the library to the public.
After a Crown Court case the squatters were evicted, but the magistrate allowed a stay of execution for Barnet Council to negotiate a lease with the local community to run the library.
Six years later in 2018 they continue to perform this function.


Keith Martin February 2018