Shoulder To Shoulder – Suffrage Project

Shoulder To Shoulder

I’m hoping over this centenary period there’s a whole set of events can be used to honour what they’ve done, also in order to highlight the need for continued advocacy.”
Dr Helen Pankhurst

Throughout 2018, there have been many special anniversaries marking events in the journey for the rights of women in British society.  To celebrate and mark these anniversaries, venues, theatre companies and community groups from across Oxfordshire, Milton Keynes and Northamptonshire have come together to create five new exciting performances that seek to measure the impact of the last 100 years of social and political change for women – from the Suffragettes to the #MeToo movement.

MK Literature Festival

This performance showcases the one of the projects that have been developed in Milton Keynes.  Paper Birds (one of the UK’s leading verbatim-based theatre companies) have been developing a new play with Peppers Ghost inclusive theatre company that explores women’s attitudes and feelings towards democracy now. Do women now feel included, empowered and listened to?

Stantonbury Theatre

This performance showcases the 2 projects that have been developed in Milton Keynes.  Paper Birds (one of the UK’s leading verbatim-based theatre companies) have been developing a new play with Peppers Ghost inclusive theatre company that explores women’s attitudes and feelings towards democracy now. Do women now feel included, empowered, listened to?   Stantonbury School & Zoo Co Theatre Company (an award winning contemporary theatre ensemble with a strong visual aesthetic) have created a new piece that explores the suffragettes and their legacy in a ‘total theatre’ style.

Royal and Derngate Theatre

To mark this year’s anniversary of 100 years since Parliament passed a law which first allowed women to vote, Royal & Derngate, The Play’s The Thing Theatre Company and Cornerstone Arts Centre have been working with local professional theatre companies and local community groups to create four new performances and an installation that seek to measure the impact of the last 100 year of social and political change for women. Royal & Derngate’s own community theatre group The Actors Company will also perform in this uplifting festival of new commissions.

MK Literature Festival

Sunday 23rd September 2018 at 9.15pm

Visit MK Literature Festival to book tickets.

Stantonbury Theatre

Friday 5th October 2018 at 7.30pm

Visit Stantonbury Theatre to book tickets.

Royal and Derngate Theatre

Sunday 21st October 2018 at 3.30pm, 4.30pm, 6.00pm and 7.00pm

Visit Royal and Derngate Theatre to book tickets.

Cornerstone Arts Centre

Tuesday 16 October 2018 at 7:30pm

Visit Cornerstone Arts Centre to book tickets.


  • Audience member - 30 November 2018

    A fascinating and thought provoking exploration of the women’s movement from past to present.

  • Audience member - 30 November 2018

    I thought Shoulder to Shoulder went very well. It’s very effective in a small space. I wasn’t too worried about the physical nature of the room. The lighting was good enough to see you all and the acoustics were good. Costumes were very successful.

  • Audience member - 30 November 2018

    I thought structurally it was clever and entertaining (especially the comic scene at the end). It would be translated into much fuller explorations of character and fluid, powerful movement. This was the first public performance and I am sorry that I was not able to see how the progression continued and expanded in later performances.

  • Audience member - 30 November 2018

    The use of music, both in the background and as a show of communal strength (in the songs), was one of the strongest features of the performance that I saw. I also noted an increased confidence in the actors, who were fully committed to their roles in spite of the limitations of the space at the Holiday Inn. Voice and movement were clear and disciplined, enabling a focus on the gender issues that were being explored. The time travel scenes were imaginative and brought some humour to serious concepts. The audience around me was appreciative and supportive, talking quite animatedly about the issues raised. It would have been interesting to have had a Q and A session after the performance as I think a fruitful discussion might have developed, though ideal for secondary schools. What is your target audience?

  • Audience member - 30 November 2018

    Nicely diverse

  • Audience member - 30 November 2018

    A thought provoking ending

  • Audience member - 30 November 2018

    Informative, amusing and entertaining, I loved the OMG joke.

  • Audience member - 30 November 2018

    Seemed a little uneven here and there, but I thought the format an excellent way of getting info and insights across. Thanks

  • Audience member - 30 November 2018

    Focused on a number of key issues.

  • Audience member - 30 November 2018

    Excellent musical support. Would have liked a discussion opportunity at the end.

  • Audience member - 30 November 2018

    Wonderful mix of history and modern information.

  • Audience member - 30 November 2018

    Very well presented . Worth staying for.

  • Audience member - 30 November 2018

    Excellent. Playful. Credit to Rosemary and players.

  • Audience member - 30 November 2018

    I was only able to attend the performance held at the Holiday Inn as part of the MK Literary Festival. I had previously observed an improvisation workshop, where movement was reinforcing the words of the participants ( e.g. moving closer together, use of mime, freezing etc.) I enjoyed the rehearsal and noted how different techniques were being used very professionally to support the participants and develop skills.

  • Audience member - 30 November 2018

    It was extremely interesting therefore to see how the early improvisations had developed.

  • Audience member - 30 November 2018

    Very thorough piece of documentary theatre. Interestingly visual.

  • Steven Mead - 30 November 2018

    Just to let you know I was in the audience last night and congratulations for excellent performances from you all. Even my 24 year old son enjoyed it

  • Rosemary Wright - 30 November 2018

    We really enjoyed the evening. Thank you.

  • MK Towns Womens Guild - 30 November 2018

    A few of our guild members went to watch an excellent performance at Stantonbury Theatre tonight, in celebration of 100 years of women’s suffrage. The second half, titled Suffrajitsu was performed by some brilliant students from years 10 and 7. In the first half, written by Mark Niel (Poet Laureate) and Rosemary Hill. Mark was one of our visitors a couple of years ago. The excellent cast performed various sketches. I particularly liked the part where 2 girls went back in time to do some research for a history test and asked the women if they were suffering!! They let them know they had won the right to vote and also dropped in that there is a female Prime Minister. The “Suffragettes” were over the moon at this news! In their excitement they asked the girls if they use their vote, to which they replied, “on X factor”!! We’ve come along way but there are still inequalities happening around the world. This highlighted how far we’ve come. #votesforwomen

  • Hannah Minns - 30 November 2018

    “Shoulder To Shoulder” made me laugh and cry last night. Thoroughly recommend it to everyone!

  • Deborah Cooper - 30 November 2018

    It was great. And a lovely pairing with the Stantonbury piece afterwards. Lovely to know drama is alive and well.

  • Shahnaz Hussain - 30 November 2018

    Congratulations everyone. Lovely to see a powerful piece of devisory theatre. It’s what I grew up on and I love it. Some great moments.

  • Natasha Huckle - 30 November 2018

    What a fantastic performance. I thoroughly enjoyed it. Very resonant, and the entire cast was superb.

  • Shahnaz Hussain - 30 November 2018

    Forgot to say that I really appreciated the way the music was done, it was perfect for the piece. Well done Mark.

  • Kevin Evans - 30 November 2018

    Have to say I saw a mixture of incredible, emotional, inventive and very personal material today during Shoulder to Shoulder at Royal & Derngate. There was one of the just most perfect shows you could imagine featuring a group of talented youngsters, another that worked for me, because of hearing such public personal revelations from friends. There was then a rather amazing performance with performers in grotesque masks which held attention for half hour despite no dialogue. Finally there was a more traditional telling of the Suffragette story with a couple of modern twists.

    The whole afternoon was incredible and I don’t mind saying I was broken more than once.

    Amazing work from all involved.
  • Gill Kirkup Fawcett Society - 30 November 2018

    I knew you’d pull off a good production, and you did.Well done to the whole team.

  • Francesca Skelton - 30 November 2018

    Good morning Rosemary

    I am so glad I got to see the Shoulder to Shoulder project on Sunday. I was already impressed at how you and your Cornertone Arts Centre and Royal and Derngate colleagues had developed a cross county partnership for this important celebration of a 100 years of women’s suffrage. With Milton Keynes at the centre of this proposed Oxford – Cambridge Arc it feels even more important that we open up our borders and widen our horizons; that we connect and learn from each other.

    And as you say in the excellent and informative programme, it is important that on the anniversary of The Suffragette movement we see how much progress we have made for the lives of women. There are so many opportunities now for women but yet still so many barriers. The exploration of these themes came through powerfully through all four performances. In your Shoulder to Shoulder Paper Bird’s and Pepper’s Ghost Theatre Company performance I particularly liked how you used the time travelling women to explore the then and the now.

    All the performances showed us how the disempowering culture the Suffragettes fought against and suffered from is still so real today. How vividly it was portrayed that it remains challenging for women to express their voice, find space, let alone have power. Harrassment and bullying are shockingly even increasing (and with social media this of course so uncontrolled and dangerous to girls and women, and to those women in the public eye). It is so important that young people can explore this through participation and engagement with theatre and I applaud the way you used history and our heritage to explore these modern themes. i was left as an audience feeling, what courage these women had and we must not fail them.

    I can see from your programme that Paper Birds are story tellers and ‘desire to listen, to understand and then ‘give voice’. This came across so well in your performance, bringing the voices of the past together with the present. The partnerships with innovative theatre groups must have been stimulating for all. The Deeds not Words performance with the Vamos full mask theatre will have been an amazing experience for the young people. It was very uncomfortable to watch.

    And finally, I was so delighted to see the quality and commitment of the students in the Stantonbury Theatre peformance. I had never known that some of the Suffragettes had learnt basic martial arts to protect against police attacks and the well choreographed fight scene was impressive and shocking. It is great to have Lucy in MK with all her ambitions for the theatre and students and to see this self identifying ‘dyed-in-the-wool feminist say in the programme – the future is hopeful!

    It is more hopeful if through theatre we can see more clearly the challenges for women and the need for change. Thank you.

    Congratulations Rosemary to you and all your colleagues

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