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31 July 2014 | Festivals, History, Weekend | By: Silvia Baretta

Suffragette Festival Comes To East London

Suffragette Festival Comes To East London

It's been 100 years since Sylvia Pankhurst founded the East London Federation of Suffragettes (ELFS). She formed the independent social movement back in 1914, following expulsion from the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU). The ELFS helped British women gain their right to vote, while in most other European countries, the female contingent remained without suffrage.

One century on, east London celebrates this inspirational group of women with the East London Suffragette Festival. Running from Friday 1 August until Sunday 10 August, the festival takes place in Bethnal Green, Bow and Stepney Green.

Highlights of the festival include:

  • An art exhibition: East Enders of WW1 visualizes the stories of young people (including Suffragettes) who lived and worked in Tower Hamlets when war broke out. Free, until 29 August
  • A film night: Women's Activism Film Night takes place at Four Corners in Bethnal Green on Friday 1 August. Short films about feminist activism and Suffragettes will be screened. £4/£2, prebook, from 7pm
  • An outdoor picnic: On Sunday 3 August the Meath Gardens History Picnic takes place in the former Victoria Park Cemetery. Meeting point is at the entrance arch on Bullard’s Place, for a walk before settling on the lawn. Free, just turn up, 1pm-3pm

The festival's major event takes place on Saturday 9 August at Toynbee Hall, close to Aldgate East Tube station. The free day-long celebration includes talks, workshops, storytelling for kids and performances based on the history of, and equality in, east London. You can find the full programme on their Facebook page.

Most of the event are free or cheap. You can actively support the festival by volunteering, promoting or even funding it. If you'd like to get involved in any way just drop them an email with your proposal. And for a little inspiration, here's the festival's footage featuring photos of the East End's 'forgotten rebels':

East London Suffragette Festival runs from 1-10 August and takes place in different venues across the East End. The festival is entirely organised by volunteers in partnership with local groups and business and with the support of the Feminist Review Trust and the East End Community Foundation. Follow on Twitter @elsuffragettes


This looks fascinating. I have just spent three days at the Women's Library reading issues of Woman's Dreadnaught, the newspaper of The East London Federation of Suffragettes. Amazing read! I had not appreciated before the extent of their activities - events every night of the week including Speaker's classes to encourage East End women to speak at public meetings and physical drill - to enable them better to escape from the police at rallies. The treatment meted out to the suffragettes by the police and authorities was indescribable but their courage and pragmatism unstoppable.