In Sylvia’s footsteps: Run for freedom

Sylvia never flinched from asking for what was needed and neither must we. We want to share Sylvia Pankhurst’s inspiring ideas and campaigns with the world and ensure her unique contribution is recognised. To get this documentary into every school, college and university in the country the charity urgently needs financial support. To raise money, WORLDwrite volunteers made it their mission to run the 5K Adidas Women’s Challenge in London’s Hyde Park this September and have raised over £3,000 to ensure Sylvia Pankhurst: Everything is Possible gets seen and to keep our Citizen TV channel afloat. We still need your generous support however to reach our target of £5000, so please do sponsor the team; it’s still easy to do through our special JustGiving page here.


Comments from key volunteer crew members

Federica Nocera
I am utterly thankful to Worldwrite for giving me the opportunity to help in the creation of the Sylvia Pankhurst documentary. This experience has been extremely important for me in many ways, mainly because through the research and the discussions we had during the preparation for the documentary I had the chance to learn about an amazing woman that has been forgotten by many. I think the Sylvia Pankhurst documentary shows everyone how we can all make everything possible. Very inspirational.

Federica filmed a key interview with Andrew Calcutt, (left), Editor Rising East on the historical context
Aurora Martinez
As a volunteer with the Sylvia film, I attended the Women’s library and parliamentary archive. For me it was a great experience, because I learned lots of things that I never knew, like Sylvia´s life and women's suffrage in England. I also liked all the documents that we saw at the library and parliament. As well as the pictures that we could see, we saw inside the parliament and it was nice to be there and to learn all these things first hand. I think WORLDwrite did a great job and I am really thankful to them. We all discovered different sides of women’s life in London in the early 20th century.

Examining & filming documents with Curator Gail Cameron at the Women’s Library
Camille Nedelec-lucas
Reading 'The Home Front' for the documentary was a revelation. The poverty and hardship that families suffered during WW1 -- not due to enemy activity but through the failure of their own government -- was something I had very little awareness of. It really gave me a new perspective on WW1 but also on how different Sylvia was to her mother and sister. She was well and truly ahead of her time; she had the foresight to understand the true human cost of modern warfare. She fought tirelessly for her cause, and I was amazed at how casually she described working for days on end, with hardly any sleep or food, for the sake of the people she was trying to help. I really enjoyed helping to make the documentary as I don't think Sylvia is celebrated often enough in mainstream media. At the time I had absolutely no documentary making experience, so it was a great learning curve. I loved the opportunity to get involved in such a huge project from the get-go. If I were to do work experience at a production company, the chances of me getting trained up and helping to make one of their films would have been zero. I'm really grateful to WORLDwrite for the opportunities that they give young people.

Camille centre with crew members after a top up ‘train & shoot’ at Kingshold Community Centre
Natasha Lewis
I became involved with the Sylvia Pankhurst film fairly late on but was still given the chance to get really involved. I took part in the visit and the shoot at the Bishopsgate Library and it was really exciting to see the original photos, maps, etc about life in the East End that I had read about as described by Sylvia in the Home Front. It found it especially interesting to see a copy of the Dreadnought. As well as the discussions, on each shoot I also got experience in interviewing, camera work and sound recording. Overall, learning about Sylvia was fascinating and I felt very proud at the preview to be involved in a film that demonstrates the importance of her life and work.

Natasha interviewed Stefan Dickers, Library & Archives Manager, Bishopsgate Institute on East End imagery and the period
Christina Frimpong
I found working on this project a real learning curve. The amount of research we did was amazing but we needed to, to do justice to the history and life of such an important women. I got a lot out of the workshops and discussions and spent hours and hours going through the Dreadnoughts at Colindale after I’d been shown how to search archives, cope with microfiche and copy original material. We needed to get the facts spot on and I was researching the Jolly George story. I also got a lot out of the filming and the talks by archivists, especially at the Women’s library and Bishopsgate and on some of the location shoots. People think it’s just a technical matter of good exposure and pointing a camera, but you do have to think about how what you are trying to convey. This means you have to know and understand the subject matter – which in Sylvia’s case is no small task.

Christina (left) & crew on a shoot in the East End
Carol Dodsworth
I really enjoyed working on the Sylvia film. I did a fair bit of first stage editing so was lucky enough to see most of the hundreds of hours of footage before we put it together. I knew very little about Sylvia Pankhurst and her campaigning before this project, so it was like having a live history lesson. I especially enjoyed Beverley Cook’s talk at the Museum of London and her explaining how women’s role in the family and the home were seen as natural and how women who wanted more than that and went out campaigning were ridiculed as the popular postcards she showed us demonstrated. I became fascinated enough to read on the subject, not something I’m known for and really enjoyed Richard Pankhurst’s book Artist and Crusader and the discussion we had on it. I think the final film is a massive success.

Beverley Cook Curator of Social History at the Museum of London reveals commercial postcards ridiculing suffragists and the first ‘hate mail’ sent to WSPU HQ.
Joana Ferreira
Being part of the WORLDwrite crew was a fascinating opportunity to get to know Silvia's great example and to increase my interest in UK politics. This is the kind of project that inspires young people to work together to bring about change.

Joana (right) researched Sylvia’s internationalism and filmed at the ‘stone bomb’ in Woodford along with Mei Leng Yew (left)
Michael Bates
I worked on the music and sound design for Sylvia Pankhurst: Everything Is Possible and it was an incredibly interesting and enlightening experience. I had very little knowledge of Sylvia and working on the film I learnt so much about what was an exciting period of history. I got to really research deep into the styles of music that were being listened to during all the periods covered by the film and try to recreate them. The folk music that was being used by the many groups involved in Sylvia's story was a great inspiration and many of the pieces in the film were adapted from tunes popular at the time. This wasn't something I had done very much before and it really developed my interest and skill in doing so. It was also fascinating to learn about what the different areas of London sounded like during other periods of history, and then to try and recreate those sounds.

Michael researched & created sounds for period imagery of the East End provided by Malcolm Barr-Hamilton, Tower Hamlets Local History Library & Archives. Pictured here Bow Road c1909
Marisa Pereira
Participating in the development of Sylvia Pankhurst: Everything is Possible was an educational experience. I realised how Sylvia’s activities stretched well beyond the Suffrage Movement. Sylvia’s communism, and her internationalism, especially her campaign for the anti-imperialist struggle of the peoples of Ethiopia against the fascist Italian forces, are just a few of the reasons why she is a figure worth remembering. So thank you WORLDwrite for giving me the opportunity to be part of this fantastic project!

A breakfast reception for released prisoners with Sylvia at the top table, filmed courtesy of the Museum of London
Joey Bertran
I’m 23 years old, and an aspiring filmmaker. Throughout the summer and fall of 2010 I had the privilege of working with WORLDwrite. I feel that the work I’ve contributed to on the Sylvia Pankhurst Documentary is absolutely essential, because Sylvia’s life is a story that needs to be told. Before I joined the crew, I had never heard of Sylvia, so I quickly had to catch up on her background. Therefore, the more I learned, the more inspired I became. We filmed hundreds of hours of footage, on location, throughout London. We listened to and interviewed dozens of authors, historians, and experts on Sylvia and the East London Federation of Suffragettes; and I was behind the camera the majority of the time. Everyone we interviewed was so incredibly passionate about Sylvia’s life as an activist; I wanted to do whatever I could to help make this film so that I could inspire others the way that it inspired me. I’m confident that it will. This is a tremendous piece of history. I’m very fortunate to have played a role in its retelling.

Joey became a key cameraman on shoots, he filmed the interview with historian, lecturer & author Mary Davis, who provided key insights for and in the film.
Anita Johnson
Working on the Sylvia Pankhurst documentary was fantastic. I really enjoyed meeting Richard Pankhurst and filming him telling previously untold stories about fascinating events in his mother's life and learning that she was also a very talented artist and how she used her creative talent for political emphasis. It was also interesting to learn about what kind of person Sylvia Pankhurst was like from someone who knew her personally. I found her story and determination to campaign for equal rights very inspiring. It was also very educational for me as I learnt more about British history and helped to improve my filming skills. I have an interest in photography and want a career in graphic design, a field in which photography skills are very useful. Being part of the project was a thoroughly enjoyable experience.

Anita filmed Richard & Rita Pankhurst at their London home.
Dan Clayton
Researching for this documentary was a real eye opener. The Hansard debates in particular revealed how the period of the suffragettes was in many ways a different world. The fact that you could openly debate the continuing inequality of half of humanity really hits home when you see it in black and white. It also revealed how some things have changed very little - certain politicians not saying what they really think except behind closed doors! As an aspiring factual and historical documentary maker it showed the importance of context and interpretation, as well as doing lots of 'homework' before an interview. Spending hours pouring through Hansard debates was exhausting but well worth it. Then visiting the parliamentary archives and hearing from the archivist brought it all to life and to share with the viewer. I can only hope Hansard extend their database of speeches further back in time. Working with WORLDwrite on this project has really fuelled my interest in history.

Dan in discussion with archivist Mari Takayanagi in the Parliamentary Archives.
Amelie Boehm
Working on the Sylvia Film was a great learning experience. I got to know all the essentials in camera work, sound and lighting. But I also, and almost more importantly, became acquainted with the subject of the Suffragettes, their cause and their amazing leader - Sylvia Pankhurst. Coming from a different country, it was the first time I had come across this fascinating part of English history and it was wonderful to get such an in-depth access to the topic. Not only did I learn a lot, I also hugely enjoyed working as part of the team and being able to help shape the project by contributing my own ideas.

Amelie presenting research on Sylvia & the dockers with fellow crew members
Elam Forrester
Working on the Sylvia Pankhurst project was a great opportunity to see the process making of a documentary from the pre-production to the premier night. It was also very inspiring to find out more about Sylvia Pankhurst and everything she stood for and contributed to society throughout her life. The knowledge and experience I gained from working on the Sylvia Pankhurst film will definitely contribute to my future career aims.

Elam (centre) at a train & shoot with fellow crew
Nathaniel Billinghurst
The Sylvia Pankhurst project was seriously worth working on as it provided me with a fairly good idea of the life and times of an extraordinary woman often neglected from the list of great British historical figures and her enormous endeavours in seeking votes for women but also, as the breadth of her international work and her commitment to it shows us, many of the issues that she worked on are as relevant and necessary today as they were in Sylvia's time. But just as importantly this project has encouraged me to think about these issues, particularly the possibilities of international solidarity in today's world as well as how the writing of history and the legitimization of political power often works through exclusion, which would explain why Sylvia is often eclipsed by the figures of her mother and sister. This also casts a slightly different light on the Suffrage movement and helped me to understand (and correct) some of the less than accurate versions of lessons learned at school. This has been a very worthwhile project indeed!

Emmeline, Christabel & Sylvia courtesy of the Museum of London
Katja Reinhardt
I worked on the Sylvia project for six months and as my English wasn’t perfect, I started transcribing interviews which we’d shot for the movie. Through this task I developed a feeling for the language and it really helped me to improve my vocab. Moreover, I did a lot of promotion, for me it was very fascinating to research who could be interested in the topics covered in the movie and I also contacted potentially interested organisations and introduced them to the documentary. Furthermore, I improved my knowledge in cultural studies as I helped to search for potential material for the movie, which helped me to understand the 1920’s and the Suffrage movement. Working with WORLDwrite really helped me to gain experience and through the trust they gave me I have learnt even more. The work on the documentary also helped me to question things.

Katja transcribed interviews with Alan Hudson, writer and lecturer, Oxford University whose insights proved vital in the film.
Lauren Boyle
The film doesn't just celebrate Sylvia's admirable and sacrificial suffrage work (unlike the few documentary films that exist do), but really captures and champions the true essence of Sylvia as a revolutionary! Inspirational to say the least. Initially, I was responsible for researching and sourcing archive footage for the film. This was an exciting prospect and truly revelatory, as the only knowledge I had of Sylvia was her relation to Emmeline and Christabel, the more prominent members of the WSPU. Being involved in the making of the Sylvia Pankhurst film has certainly broadened my horizons and at the same time advanced my audio-visual skills, provided me with technical and practical 'hands on' experience, a key insight into the film production industry and on a personal level imbued me with the confidence I needed to go further. Since contributing to the making of Sylvia, I have achieved so much, including getting my first job as a film and editing assistant at a youth arts organisation and I owe it all to the WORLDwrite team.

Lauren (left) presenting to camera in Victoria Park with fellow crew member Heena
Mei Leng Yew
I learned a huge number of skills while working on this film. I was involved on a number of levels, from researching locations, helping as a runner, as a camerawoman and with sound and lighting equipment. I also presented a short segment for the film. The experience has been invaluable, giving me an insight into how a programme grows from an idea to a fully-fledged film. Using the skills I learned, I went on to gain freelance work with a major news channel, citing my experience with WORLDwrite-WORLDbytes as evidence of my interest in production and knowledge of the processes involved.

Mei (left) with co Director Viv Regan shooting in Victoria Park
Saleha Ali
Working on the film was an eye opener in terms of picking up innumerable practical skills such as learning to use the camera, lighting, sound, presenting and interviewing. However, the most gratifying aspect of the project for me was learning about Sylvia Pankhurst, her campaigns and the times in which she lived. This opened my eyes to a chapter in British history I knew very little about. Our research in museums and archives, as well as reading the books and papers written by Sylvia Pankhurst and the discussions we held, as a crew, around her writings enlightened me about the context in which votes for women and equal rights were won: through dedicated campaigning and an unwavering demand for the expansion of democracy at a time when it was otherwise not forthcoming. Through this project I learnt the value of standing for ideals and getting up and fighting for your rights. It highlighted what politics and social change could and perhaps should mean, a refusal to bow to fate and taking charge of your own destiny, something Sylvia’s various struggles represent perfectly.

Saleha interviewing author Shirley Harrison outside the House of Parliament