Marking milestone in empowerment

The new season at Octavia Hill’s Birthplace House in Wisbech kicks off with a string of events celebrating the empowerment of women.

On Friday (March 8) the museum where the social reformer and co-founder of the National Trust was born is staging a wine and cheese evening to mark the opening night of ‘Permission to speak’, a contemporary art exhibition by the Precious Earth Art Collective and the first of three such events billed for a newly designated display area at the museum.

The collective, a group of multi-disciplinary artists, is mounting the show as part of the 100-year commemoration of the Representation of the People Act of 1918, which extended the franchise to women who had come to regard their powerlessness as a norm.

The exhibition, which provides a dialogue between the past and the present, seeks to educate and empower people who suffer to speak their truth as well as showcasing inspiring women who have seized opportunities to break through.

In a talk during the evening to celebrate International Women’s Day Maggie Morgan, a long-serving patron of the Octavia Society who has advised the National Trust on many projects, will pose the question, ‘Was Octavia Hill a feminist?’

The second of the weekend events is a mayoral town and around walk by Peter Clayton on ‘Wisbech women’on Saturday (March 9) and participants are invited to join town mayor Councillor Peter Human to look at the top ten heritage attractions in Wisbech.

The weekend is rounded off on Sunday (March 10) with a talk on ‘Women’s role in the parish church’ led by Elizabeth Parkinson, lay minister at Wisbech St Mary, Emmanuel Church, Parson Drove, and St Paul’s Church, Gorefield, an event marking the 15th anniversary of the first female ordination to the Church of England in March, 1994.

Tickets for the opening night of the exhibition and talk by Maggie Morgan, which starts at 7.30pm for 7.45pm at the Birthplace House, cost £5 each and will be available on the door.   Walkers joining in the Saturday event meet at 1.30pm at the Birthplace House for a 2pm departure and donations to the museum are requested.   The normal standard entry fee will apply for people attending the Sunday talk at the museum, which starts at 2.30pm.

Future shows by the Precious Earth Art Collective in the new exhibition room at the museum include ‘Anthropocene’, which will explore ways in which human beings leave their footprint on the environment, and ‘Breathe’, which is focused on clean air.

Artist and curator Amanda Caldon, who formed the collective, said:  “Art is a fabulous medium to inspire change.   I was delighted to be invited to exhibit our work at Octavia Hill’s birthplace as a woman who believes passionately in social and environmental concerns.

“I am sure Octavia, who was a social reformer plus an amazing artist, would have been excited by the work we do.   I feel strongly about equal opportunities for all, which is why I have invited some amateurs to participate in the show.”

Mr Peter Clayton, chairman of the Octavia Hill Birthplace Museum Trust, said:  “The creation of the new exhibition room at Octavia Hill’s Birthplace House is a major development in the facilities offered by the museum and we look forward to welcoming many people to see these exhibitions, which will change every few months in the future.

“We are very appreciative of the backing we have received from our supporters locally, nationally and internationally, who have helped to create this major heritage attraction for Wisbech.”

He added that it is hoped that the museum will mount some smaller taster exhibitions in the community space by the reception area on themes such as heritage and housing that chime with the work of the town’s most famous daughter, Octavia Hill.