Blog: Helen Antrobus

Manchester’s radical past inspires the present, says one of the organisers of this year’s Wonder Women Festival

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The Wonder Women Festival was conceived to lead up to this centenary year, when some women first won the vote. That’s the reason why we started it and why we’ve had it for the last five years. It has had a massive impact on celebrating hidden women in Manchester.

Although Manchester is vastly important to women’s history, being the home of the suffrage movement – starting here in 1867, before Emmeline Pankhurst famously set up the WSPU in 1903 – it’s still an incredible hub of feminist activity, and has been for hundreds of years. There’s a radical spirit to Manchester that seems to produce strong and inspiring women. The programme this year is getting those voices out.

From Girl Gang Manchester’s Women Rule MCR, to Contact Theatre’s She Bangs The Drums, we are seeing the women of Manchester using their voices and shouting loudly. These truly are moments when the past inspires the present, and it’s really special to see.

The rest of the year will be extremely exciting for Manchester women, and even though we are going to see a statue of Emmeline Pankhurst this year, and there’s been so much talk about her and the suffragettes, what the Wonder Women Festival does is to represent the thousands  of other women across Manchester who are just as powerful and just as radical as the Pankhursts were 100 years ago.

Although I’m excited for the whole programme, I can’t wait to take people on the Wonder Women tours at People’s History Museum. There’s so much women’s history available, though sometimes hidden away, and it’s a great way for people to come and learn about the fight for equality that’s been going on for centuries.

Wonder Women festival is led by the People’s History Museum bringing together cultural organisations and artists from across the city to creatively explore Manchester’s radical past, present and future. To find out more about the events taking place for Wonder Women and how you can book visit

Read our Q&A with Rebecca Milne, curator of Annie Swynnerton: Painting Light and Hope, also part of the Wonder Woman Festival, here

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