Courage Calls for a People’s Vote!

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Through drama and creativity we help empower
women and young people to use their voice and be heard.

Bringing people together, to celebrate how far we have come and to empower a new generation to use their voice and be heard is central to the #Emilymatters initiative.

We take inspiration from the legacy of suffragette Emily Wilding Davison, as well as the stories of Ordinary, Brave and Extraordinary women, past and the present.

Courage Calls for a People’s Vote!

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14th December 2018

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It is time to listen to and trust the People

 

 

The 14th December marks 100 years since some women and all men in the UK had the right to vote in a general election. Throughout 2018, there have been events paying tribute to the courage, determination and selflessness of Women’s suffrage campaigners.

Theresa May led the 6th February Centenary celebrations of the Representation of the People Act as well as the unveiling of the Millicent Fawcett statue on 24th April. The slogan held aloft by Fawcett reads: “Courage Calls to Courage Everywhere!” which she is said to have written in response to suffragette Emily Wilding Davison’s brave Epsom Derby protest

 

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Sadiq Khan and Theresa May at the Millicent Fawcett statue unveiling, 24 April 2018. Image via Sky News.

 

I am sure that all those politicians present meant every word of praise for Millicent Fawcett and all those women who never gave up the struggle for equality and the right to vote.

However, too many in the Mother of Parliaments continue to deny the People their right to have the final say on the issue that will determine the future of this nation for decades to come. The casual use of divisive and fear mongering language coupled with a second vote on the Prime Minister’s leadership do nothing to encourage trust in our democratic process that women like Emily Davison fought so hard to achieve. 

 

Words AND Deeds 

In response to this year’s Vote 100 anniversary and Brexit, I have written ‘Courage Calls for a People’s Vote!’ that honours Emily and her brave suffrage sisters and joins the calls for a Public Vote on the Brexit deal. It highlights that now it is our turn to champion democracy and that time is pressing.  

 

“We did not shrug our shoulders in the face of self-interest, misogyny and social injustice. We worked shoulder to shoulder, in solidarity, across borders and the oceans wide. Sisters moving forwards together, with our friends and allies by our sides.”
– Emily Davison, from ‘Courage Calls for a People’s Vote!’ By Kate Willoughby, 2018.

 

The calls for a People’s Vote on the final Brexit deal grow louder by the hour as Westminster seems to implode. Given that so much has changed since 2016, no one can now claim to speak for the ‘Will of the People’ today, so why not ask the people? 



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Writing this piece in the former suffragette Headquarters, I am reminded of Manchester’s’ Mary Leigh, a loyal friend to suffragette Emily Davison. Decades after the equal suffrage had been secured, she wrote:

 

“To the men and women of the Generations which will come after us.
You will look back at us with astonishment. But what you will never know is…
How it was thinking of you and for you that we struggled as we did.”
– Mary Leigh, from To Freedom’s Cause, (Original source: LSE Women’s Library archives).

 

Like its Votes For Women forebear, the People’s Vote campaign is a movement, across the political spectrum, for the greater good. A battle for hearts and minds. 

 

Keep on!  

Despite all the setbacks and broken promises by Westminster, women like Mary, Emily and Sophia Duleep Singh never gave up hope. And nor should we. 

 

“We will not be bullied. Our voices will be heard!”
– Emily Davison,  call to action speech from To Freedom’s Cause (by Kate Willoughby, 2015).

 

Having written and performed a call to action speech by Emily Davison, drawn from her writings, at several of this year’s Centenary suffrage events, I could no longer stand up  and say those words yet stay silent on such a significant democratic issue that I believe she would be campaigning for today.

Since taking ‘To Freedom’s Cause’, my play about Emily Davison and her brave band of sister suffragettes from the north, to the House of Commons in February 2014, I have worked extensively with community groups and organisations promoting women’s and young people’s voices through drama and creativity. 

Throughout the 2016 EU Referendum campaign and subsequent Brexit negotiations, women’s voices have been sidelined, whilst around 1.4 million young people have become eligible to vote. This is why I believe that more politicians need to have the courage of their convictions to put this momentous decision back to the electorate.

If you are also concerned by what is happening with regards to Brexit, please do contact your MP. There is a helpful template that you can personalise on the People’s Vote website’s #notbuyingit page.

Don’t let elements of the media or political figures silence you with talk of some people never voting again or defying democracy. It is up to all of us to listen, learn and act on the genuine issues that were highlighted by the 2016 referendum result.

A People’s Vote is not about the status quo, it is a moment for politicians to step up and tackle issues that UK governments have ignored, leaving the EU to be an all too easy scapegoat.  

 

Remain hopeful  

This chaotic situation could yet prove to be our finest hour, where Westminster listens and acts to ensure that difficult issues are tackled head on, so that no one is left behind. 

 

The final say on the Brexit deal is above party politics and it is far too important to be left to assumed consent, when so much has changed and a new generation of voters are eligible to have their say.

I believe it is time to listen to and trust the electorate in a free and fair vote on the final Brexit deal.

Courage calls for a People’s Vote! 

Yours in the Cause,

Kate Willoughby
Actor & Writer of Emily Wilding Davison play To Freedom’s Cause  



 

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