“I’ve got the vote… and I’m going to use it!”
On February 16 we threw the doors of the Ipswich Art Gallery open and welcomed friends, families and visitors to explore the colourful, creative and challenging artwork created as a part of the Women 100 project.
Lisa Temple-Cox, artist-in-residence, and Eleanor Root, Collections and Learning Curator, supported the YMCA, 4YP (Suffolk young People’s Mental Health Project), Northgate High School, Thomas Wolsey Ormiston Academy, Gainsborough Library Girls Group and 29th Ipswich Guides to create artwork exploring how women won the vote and the importance of voting today.
Memorably, a 14-year-old 4YP participant said she wasn’t interested in voting and never would. However, by the end of the session she presented Eleanor with a badge inscribed with ‘Votes for 16+’ and said she would definitely be voting. The 4YP participants created boxes that represented their minds as modern women. They asked for a label to accompany their boxes stating “Our boxes represent ourselves as people. The boxes on the outside are all the same but inside our different. A representation of ourselves as strong women.”
The project’s journey was often inspiring and heart-breaking in equal measure. Many of Ipswich’s young people feel excluded and disengaged from the democratic system. When questioned they often said they wouldn’t know how to vote or simply didn’t care, which sits at odds with their articulately expressed beliefs in the importance of greater opportunities, caring for the environment and support for people at risk of homelessness. For the young people these issues were disconnected from politics and they described feeling powerless to effect positive change.
The journey from disinterest to hotly debating equality and rights was a common theme amongst the workshops. When first asked if they voted, the YMCA residents said yes but only for ‘I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here!’. Yet as the weeks progressed, the young people began to express their views more readily.
After much debate, the YMCA residents painted their banner to read “I’ve got the VOTE and I’m going to use it for… cleaner oceans, less pollution and more recycling, affordable housing, homeless shelters and support, cheaper entertainment, funding for mental health, free college education until you’re 25, free universities, more activities in the local area, more funding for government programmes like Ipswich Museums, YMCA and 4YP.”
“I’d just like to say a huge thank you for allowing us to participate in the project! Seems to be something they are really enjoying!” – Ryan Hickey, Positive Behaviour Coach, YMCA
The YMCA residents have been invited to the Mayor’s parlour to discuss their views and advise local councillors on how to encourage more young people to engage with the democratic system.
Women 100 has built a foundation on which further discussion and awareness needs to be built. The participants showed passion and courage in expressing their beliefs and we need to find ways that this can be nurtured and grown. You can do your part by taking the time to visit the Women 100 exhibition to see what the young people have to say and leave a response on the feedback wall.
This project was in partnership with the Friends of Ipswich Museums and generously funded by the Government Equalities Office.