February – March 2014 we yarnstormed Manchester Town Hall – why?
In 2013 there was some great campaigning work on issues around how women are represented in society – No More Page 3; women on banknotes; and the Woman’s Room.
It inspired us to think about how women & women’s achievements are represented in the public sphere and portrayed in history books. Women’s accomplishments can be ignored, devalued, written out of history, leading to a lack of diverse female role models.
We couldn’t help notice that barring Queen Victoria’s status through birth, Manchester’s municipal statues only celebrate the accomplishments of men. The ground floor of Manchester Town Hall is brimming with portrait busts of people of achievement – the sculpture cafe hosts 16 busts; and a further 8 line the entrance corridor. But it’s an all-male cast; representations of women are conspicuously absent.
This monumental gender imbalance is repeated across the country – of 640 listed statues in the UK, only 15% are of women and most of those are of monarchs or mythological characters. Women of achievement are not rare exceptions to the rule; however women’s accomplishments have been under-represented and under-recorded.
We’re interested in reframing or revisioning the past; finding ways of bringing women’s achievements from the margins to the centre of culture so they are celebrated and valued accordingly. We wanted to highlight that, despite barriers to participating in the public sphere, women’s contributions have been many, varied, and exciting.
We chose eight amazing women from diverse backgrounds to celebrate, and we gave the man busts in Manchester Town Hall a craftivist crochet facelift.
Traditionally dismissed as women’s work, craft has been undergoing a revival in the past few years. Germaine Greer called the resurgence of handcrafting ‘heroic pointlessness’ – but she missed the point. The act of creating functional items in the home was a strong contributor to women’s community-building, with techniques and patterns passed around sewing circles and from generation to generation, and provided women with a creative outlet where their other achievements were devalued.
Check out artist Helen Davies’ post about her craft inspiration for the masks, and how to be feminine.