In 2019, the School of Law considered how best to commemorate the centenary of women being allowed to practise law. Our aims were to educate and inform each other through a cross-disciplinary and student-focused approach underpinned by the University’s Principles of Partnership, fostering a sense of belonging and empowerment.
The series of events, “100 Years of Women’s Voices”, was born and involved the performance of a staff-student play, a cross-disciplinary symposium, a student-led art exhibition, a student poetry competition, and the production of a collaborative book. These activities aligned closely with the University’s Teaching and Learning Strategy by offering students the best possible co-curricular personal development opportunities that enable them to reach their full potential.
The Play: ‘The Disppearance of Miss Bebb’
In 1913, Gwyneth Bebb challenged the Law Society’s refusal to allow women to become solicitors. Research by Professor Rosemary Auchmuty at the School of Law on the life of Bebb inspired dramatist, Alex Giles, to write a radio play, “The Disappearance of Miss Bebb”. Given the play’s provenance, it was apt that the School of Law should stage the play as part of our centenary celebrations. A large cast of students was assembled, and four members of staff (including Rosemary) took cameo roles. The performances (at the University’s Minghella Studios) informed, educated, and inspired and the play was hailed as a ‘triumph’ by a packed house. Student feedback was also overwhelmingly positive. One student noted the “fantastic environment”, and the “excitement and passion” of her fellow students. Another said, “I’m so grateful to have collected such wonderful memories! Truly unforgettable.” Yet others remarked, “we formed a real comradery which I believe shone through”, and, “the play has taught me never to give up”. Another said that he had learnt, “a great deal” about “how essential it is that we strive for equality in today’s society.”
See here for clips of rehearsals for the play.
The playwright, Alex Giles, joined speakers from across the University and from the charities, Alana House and Women in Prison, for an afternoon of short ‘TED’-style talks. The Symposium was open to all students and staff and consisted of three seminars: ‘Past Protagonists’, ‘Present Challenges’, and ‘Future Hope’.
The Art Exhibition:
The art exhibition, ‘The Empowerment of the Female Artist’ included the work of staff at the School of Law and students at the Institute of Education.
The Poetry Competition
A poetry competition was organised on the theme of ‘equality’ which was open to all members of the University. The entries were celebrated and shared during a reading at the School of Law.
The Commemorative Book
Student involvement was integral to the design and creation of a commemorative book. The contributions from each of the events were collated into a beautiful anthology that is a lasting testament to “100 Years of Women’s Voices”. The book enables a wider audience to be reached and it provides students with a material record of their achievements.