Followers of this blog will be aware of the huge admiration that it harbours for the eventually successful campaign of the suffragettes for Votes for Women. Indeed, contact with the Pankhurst Centre in Manchester, the onetime home of the family, features strongly in my book, “Northern Soles: a coast to coast walk”, published in March and shamelessly promoted through the blog!
An extremely rewarding – for me — outcome has been the contact made with Dr Helen Pankhurst who readily gave her time and attention to checking what I had to say about her extraordinary family and their work. It was, as they say, a “no-brainer”, to deploy that horrible expression, that Mrs Blog and I would attend the launch in February, at the Centre, of Helen’s own new book, “Deeds Not Words: the Story of Women’s Rights, Then and Now”.
And what a book! Currently being somewhat out of commission healthwise myself, I have the chance to do a lot of reading and “Deeds Not Words” comprises a fascinating analysis of what kind of progress we may have experienced in “women’s issues” in the 100 years since the great landmark of “Votes” in 1918. Helen and others have scored “progress” as they see it in areas like politics, money, identity, violence, culture and power – and, safe to say, winning the vote didn’t on its own guarantee solutions to a range of issues of equality, fairness and decency. A great read, but be prepared to be angry… A continuing need for Deeds as well as Words.
Helen is due to feature in May at the Charleston Literary Festival (think, Bloomsbury Set) near Lewes here in Sussex, and I very much hope to make the gig – radiotherapy treatment permitting!
I have also just read in one sitting Alison Macleod’s recently published and splendid collection of short stories, All the Beloved Ghosts. As someone who usually gives short stories a wide berth, this was a welcome reminder that I should be more open in my reading habits! It is, quite simply, a wonderful collection.
I’m also very much enjoying Simon Jenkins’ Britain’s 100 Best Railway Stations! I know! How nerdish am I?? Except that it provides a fascinating historical, geographical and social glimpse into some of the finest buildings the country has seen, beautifully photographed and described by a former chairman of the National Trust and founder of the Railway Heritage Trust. Wonderful book. And, again, not just words but actions implemented (or, sadly in some cases, missed) to ensure the conservation of this vital element of what’s special about Britain.
Talking of the National Trust, it is great to see the new DG, Hilary McGrady, setting out her stall to make the Trust more relevant to a wider population. Not just saving the houses of the rich for the enjoyment of the not so rich but creating opportunities for urban, transient, cosmopolitan communities to share something of the nation’s heritage. In a voluntary capacity I have been fortunate enough in the last few years to serve on a regional advisory board for the Trust and have very much supported this kind of approach. Again, it will need Deeds as well as Words!
I am currently somewhat incapacitated but hope to resume participation if and when. This question of the Trust’s relevance is something that I was keen to pick up on in “Northern Soles” – so, another shameless plug!!
I have been delighted with the responses I have seen from those kind enough to get hold of the book, and look forward to hearing from more of you! It is, to us the well-known phrase, available through the usual routes! Here, if you prefer, is a link to the relevant bit of my publisher’s website:
May I also say how grateful I have been for the kind expressions of support received during my illness, from readers of the blog and so many others around the world. I am of course reliant on the skills, resources and Deeds of the NHS to do their best, but the Words of friends, contacts and blog followers provide a wonderful and complementary source of encouragement! It is very much appreciated.
I will endeavour to keep you posted.