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Parliamentary Outreach Breaking Barriers Exhibition Opening / 16 June 2009

Rachel Gadsden painting

Rachel Gadsden Breaking Barriers Painting

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It was with great excitement that The Breaking Barriers Exhibition Opening took place on the 5th June, a day after the country went to vote. With one of the lowest voter turnouts ever, it was a particularly poignant moment to be playing a role in Parliamentary Outreach “Breaking Barriers” project and exhibition. 'Breaking Barriers' looks at how the stories of local suffragists and suffragettes in Essex can be relevant to modern audiences. The exhibition was developed in partnership with Essex County Council, The Women's Library, Rethink, Epping Forest Museum, and Southend Discovery Museum.

During the art workshops my role was to share the subject of the Suffragette and Suffragist movement with members of Rethink and to encourage them to consider how their own particular voices can and should be heard within a greater context, and to encourage each of the participants to create an artwork that narrated their personal story.
It was a very moving experience for me to hear and share their personal stories and experiences and to witness how each of the participants were inspired to create beautiful individual mixed media artworks.

I was given a huge amount of support by Rebecca Fawcett Cultural Programmes Manager for Parliamentary Outreach to facilitate the series of one day workshops with members of Rethink, and to also create a personal painting that encapsulated both the strength of the Suffragette and Suffragist Movement and images of my Great Grandmother, her Daughters and Son and my Grandfather who lived in the East End of London and Essex where much of the Suffragette and Suffragist activity took place. Significantly none of the female members of my family would have been able to vote when the photo of them in the painting was taken.

Over 90 people attended the event and Baroness McIntosh of Hudnall opened the exhibition after an Edwardian high tea was served. I was particularly pleased that so many of the Rethink participants were able to make it to the opening and delighted that my parents were there too experience the day too.

My father was very emotional when he saw the images of his family playing a role in the exhibition and serving as a reminder to all of us that we do need to continue to engage with parliament and to take an interest and personal responsibility for the progression of our society.

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Keywords: visual art