‘Making the choice to fight even when you know you might not win.’
‘May’ is a one-woman show based on the life of the ‘crippled suffragette’ May Billinghurst.
Celebrating 100 years since women got the vote, Wyldwood Arts is proud to present ‘May’. A one-woman show based on the life of disabled, bisexual, suffragette May Billinghurst. Written and performed by Phoebe Kemp, a bisexual disabled woman herself, it tells the story of a key player in the suffragette movement.
Written and performed by emerging artist Phoebe Kemp and directed by Hannah Treadway, both of whom are wheelchair users, this play offers a retrospective look at May’s life whilst forcing us to look at how far we’ve really come in the fight for equality.
This project celebrates the life of a disabled woman whose role in the suffragette movement was closely associated with Emily Pankhurst but whose legacy is unheard. Through the development of a performance as well as accompanying workshops and community engagement, we aim to educate and honour May Billinghurst – providing a platform for her story as well as highlighting the lives of other disabled women in history.
In 2016, there was a short R & D for this project, funded by Arts Council England. The script was developed and Wiltshire Creative and Town Hall Arts, Trowbridge supported Phoebe. ‘Our experience of working with Phoebe was great – there is much to be admired in her writing and performance’, says Jo Newman, Associate Director, Wiltshire Creative.
Phoebe has done in-depth research into the historical aspects of the story of May Billinghurst, ensuring its accuracy and likeness to the original person. Through this research period, she was shocked to discover that there are very little historical documents that relate to people with disabilities. ‘It’s as if they (disabled people) have been removed from history. I wanted to write something about a real-life disabled person – statistically, there had to be more disabled people but there are no records. May was unique and privileged in the disabled community and she used her status to help others but she has mostly been forgotten. I wanted to celebrate her life and story.’
May played a key role in the women’s rights movement and campaigned on a tricycle called a ‘Cranky Franky’. The company have been fortunate enough to borrow an original replica from British Wheelchair Athlete, Sarah Piercy. They are also commissioning a modern replica which will be easier for Phoebe to use over a long touring period.
Through the performances and accompanying workshops, the project aims are to inspire, educate and value the role of disabled women, increasing people’s awareness and empowering audiences to understand how important one voice can be.
Producer, Rachel Adams said, ‘we hope ‘May’ will spark crucial conversations in communities around equality, changing the way people see the past to reimagine the future of disability. We’re delighted to be producing this play with Phoebe, she’s hugely talented and a role model on so many levels.’
‘May’ is hugely relevant today in a society where disabled and LGBTQI voices are still desperate to be heard. It asks the question, how far have we really come in 100 years?
• 15th Feb – Trowbridge Arts https://tinyurl.com/ya8yal7u
• 16th Feb – Salisbury Playhouse (part of Theatre Fest) https://tinyurl.com/ycheexo6
• 19th Feb – Devizes Library (tickets on door + front desk)https://tinyurl.com/y7wt6w67
• 26th Feb- Malmesbury Library (tickets on door + front desk)https://tinyurl.com/yby8cdzo
• 28th Feb – Rondo Theatre, Bath https://tinyurl.com/ycnskpsf
More dates to follow – contact Wyldwood Arts about future bookings.
// Credits //
Written and performed by artist Phoebe Kemp with direction from Hannah Treadway //
Produced by Wyldwood Arts // Supported using Funding by Arts Council England //
Special thanks to Town Hall Arts, Trowbridge and Davinci Mobility
Photograph attached – credit to Camilla Adams
To speak to someone at Wyldwood Arts for more information please email .uk.
Wyldwood Arts: Wyldwood Arts is a community arts organisation, producing high quality participatory projects. We believe every person, regardless of their age & physical ability should be able to participate in high quality, professional arts experiences. We work with educational establishments & arts organisations. Our activities and projects offer a voice to empower participants through the arts.