Shoulder to Shoulder: screening and symposium to mark fortieth anniversary

Event will look at women’s history, feminism and British television

Forty years after the show was originally broadcast, the cast and crew of the BBC series Shoulder to Shoulder gathered for a screening at Birkbeck, on 15 May 2014. The screening marked the start of a two-day academic symposium on representing women’s history, feminism and British television.

Shoulder to Shoulder told the story of the early women’s suffrage movement in Britain (1890s – 1919). Its importance as a landmark BBC drama documenting women’s history and experience is unquestioned, yet in forty years a television series of this scale has not revisited the theme.

Baroness Joan Bakewell, President of Birkbeck, attended the Shoulder to Shoulder screening and chaired the symposium’s opening session. She said: “This was a unique get-together of many of the talents that went to make Shoulder to Shoulder such a success. Today it is still as vibrant and inspiring as ever.  It deserves to be seen by a new generation who will be inspired by its message.”

Dr Janet McCabe, Lecturer in Film and Television at Birkbeck, who organised the event with Dr Vicky Ball, Senior Lecturer in Cinema and Television Histories, De Montfort University, said: “Helena Bonham-Carter and Carey Mulligan have recently been filming Suffragette at the Houses of Parliament. This is the first time that the seat of British power has been used as a film set.  Rarely has the history of female suffrage made it onto our screens and it was forty years ago this month that the BBC transmitted its high-profile drama, Shoulder to Shoulder, which centred on the struggle for women’s rights. Over these two days we will be looking at the history of female suffrage on television; the women behind these projects; how stories of the fight for equality have been told and represented. It explores questions of women’s television history and the history of feminism on television. Never has this been more timely as feminism continues to hit the headlines. Calls for feminist activism and the clamour for women’s vote have made the issues raised in Shoulder to Shoulder as pertinent as ever.”

[Photo L-R: Patricia Quinn (Christabel Pankhurst), Angela Down (Sylvia Pankhurst), Moira Armstrong (director of ‘Outrage’ and ‘Christabel Pankhurst’), Baroness Joan Bakewell (journalist, broadcaster and President of Birkbeck), Graham Benson (production assistant), Waris Hussein (director of ‘The Pankhursts’, ‘Annie Kenney’, ‘Lady Constance Lytton’, ‘Sylvia Pankhurst’)]