Procession Banners by Centre for Sustainable Fashion Professor Lucy Orta, a selection of banners made by female residents of HMP Downview will go on display for the first time at Medicine Bakery and Gallery – formerly the gallery of the Royal Birmingham Society of Artists – where it provides a unique context for the city’s engagement with the history of suffrage.
Early this year Lucy Orta began collaborating with HMP Downview residents as part of the Making for Change programme, established by London College of Fashion. Commissioned by Historic England as part of the HerStories campaign, the group designed 30 banners to mark 100 years since British women won the vote.
In 2016, many residents were transferred to HMP Downview after the closure of HMP Holloway, then the largest all-women prison in Europe, and the notorious site where over 1,000 suffragettes had been imprisoned during their struggle for the vote. Through workshops Orta collected testimonies about what it means to be a woman today, the power of the vote and our shared future.
Seven banners were carried by student volunteers from London College of Fashion as part of PROCESSIONS, the mass participation artwork produced by Artichoke and commissioned by 14-18 NOW, which took place in London, Cardiff, Edinburgh and Belfast on Sunday 10 June 2018.
The weekly meetings in the Making for Change fashion manufacturing unit at HMP Downview brought together women from all ages, backgrounds, races and cultures. Sharing craft techniques provided a common creative environment, a neutral safe space, to reflect on what it means to be a woman today and our shared future. The banners reflect the power of a collective women’s voice. – Lucy Orta
During November 2018, Orta is the final artist-in-residence for Ikon’s 2018 Looping the Loop programme, a three year project (2017-19) taking place on board Slow Boat, a converted narrowboat, and community spaces in Birmingham’s Ladywood district. During her residency, Orta and MotherShip Projects join together with local communities to create a processional banner based on personal experiences.
On Saturday 17 November, 10am–12.30pm, to mark the centenary of women’s suffrage, Lucy Orta, MotherShip and students from Birmingham City University lead a procession through the streets of Birmingham headed by the finished banner.
The exhibition opens 23 October and runs until 20 January 2019, at Medicine Bakery and Gallery, 69 New Street, Birmingham B2 4DU.
Open Tuesday- Sunday, 10am-5pm, free entry. Please note Medicine Bakery is only accessible via a steep staircase.