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The story of Sylvia Pankhurst – artist and campaigner of votes for women will be told against a backdrop of her paintings at Leicester’s Guildlhall on Saturday 3rd February.

The event takes place as Leicester prepares to unveil a statue of suffragette Alice Hawkins on Sunday 4 February.

Photo Credit: Leicester City Council

Sylvia Pankhurst was invited to Leicester by Alice Hawkins in 1907 to paint the women shoemakers in the Equity shoe factory.

The play SYLVIA – brought to Leicester by Lynx Theatre and Poetry tells the story of her youth, starting with her childhood in a radical Manchester family when she longed to become an artist “in the service of social betterment” and won three art scholarships, including one to Venice.

After her mother, Emmeline, and sister, Christabel, founded the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) she gave up her art to rouse the women of the East End to fight for the vote.

Despite being thrown out of the WSPU by Christabel because of her socialist ideas, it was Sylvia who forced Prime Minister Herbert Asquith to see a delegation of working women and to concede that their argument was “moderate and well-reasoned”.

The play is set against 250 slides of her paintings and archive photographs, which will show the world she lived in, the places and people that were important to her. The play will be followed by a discussion led by author and actress Jacqueline Mulhallen, who is looking for descendants of the women in the paintings.

SYLVIA takes place at 7.30pm on Saturday 3 February. Tickets costing £9 (£7 concessions) are available from the Guildhall by ringing 0116 253 2569.

A nationwide programme of events marking the centenary of the first British women getting the vote will take place this year, with seven cities receiving a share of the Government’s £1.2 million Centenary Cities fund.

Bolton, Bristol, Leeds, Leicester, London, Manchester and Nottingham will all host a range of exciting projects, with Leicester receiving a grant of £189,500 that will fund a series of educational and celebratory events inspired by the life and work of Alice Hawkins.

The statue of Alice will be the first of three statues of inspirational women to be unveiled in the UK this year to mark the centenary.

Millicent Fawcett – founder of the National Union of Suffrage Societies – will be commemorated with a statue in London’s Parliament Square, while a statue of Emmeline Pankhurst – leader of the suffragette movement – will be unveiled in Manchester in December.

The Alice Hawkins statue will be unveiled at a public event taking place in Leicester’s new market square from 2pm on Sunday 4 February.

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