STR Lecture Series 2016: ‘Re-evaluating the Actresses’ Franchise League: Suffrage Theatre, Networks and Activism’

You are warmly invited to the next talk of the 2015-16 Society for Theatre Research annual lecture series, which takes place on Wednesday 13 April 2016 at 7.30pm at the Swedenborg Hall, 20 Bloomsbury Way, London WC1A 2TH.

DR NAOMI PAXTON will present ‘Re-evaluating the Actresses’ Franchise League: Suffrage Theatre, Networks and Activism’

The Actresses’ Franchise League was formed in 1908 by a group of theatre professionals keen to support the work of the suffrage societies. Neutral in regard to tactics, the variety of their work and contributions to the performative propaganda of the suffrage movement shows an organisation embracing new forms, new spaces, new ideas and new audiences. This lecture will explore the work of the Actresses’ Franchise League, the networks created by and through the League and the organisation after 1918, drawing on both suffrage and theatre histories to tell the story of suffragist actresses and actors and their political activism.

Dr Naomi Paxton is an actress, performer and researcher and has appeared in the West End and on tour in the UK and internationally. She has shared her passion for the work of the Actresses’ Franchise League at many events, including the National Theatre, Hay Festival and Latitude Festival and was one of the AHRC/BBC Radio 3 New Generation Thinkers for 2014-15. From 2015-16 she was Research Associate for the AHRC funded project Poor Theatres at the University of Manchester. Naomi edited The Methuen Drama Book of Suffrage Plays (Bloomsbury, 2013), is an Associate Artist of the feminist production hub Scary Little Girls and is currently Cultural Engagement Fellow at the School of Advanced Study, University of London.

The talk will be livestreamed here: https://livestream.com/accounts/6741029/events/5156919

These events are free and open to everyone. For further information about the STR and events see the society’s website: http://www.str.org.uk/.

NRN Blog: Thinking Aloud – the AHRC/BBC Radio 3 New Generation Thinkers scheme

Dr Naomi Paxton

Image credit: Shambhala

Dr Naomi Paxton is an actress, performer and researcher and has appeared in the West End and on tour in the UK and internationally. She was one of the AHRC/BBC Radio 3 New Generation Thinkers for 2014-15. Naomi edited The Methuen Drama Book of Suffrage Plays (2013), is an Associate Artist of the feminist production hub Scary Little Girls and is currently Research Associate for the AHRC funded project Poor Theatres at the University of Manchester.

Have you heard of the AHRC/BBC Radio 3 New Generation Thinkers scheme? If you’re interested in getting your academic research out to a wide audience through BBC Radio it’s definitely something you should investigate.

The scheme is an annual competition run jointly by the AHRC and BBC Radio 3’s Free Thinking producers to find ten new academics from across the arts and humanities and give them the chance to get their research out into broadcast media. You’re eligible if you’re working at a UK research organisation, are in the final year of your PhD or are an ECR with no more than 8 years of post-PhD experience.

I applied in 2014 because I was a regular listener to both BBC Radio 4 and BBC Radio 3’s arts programmes, review shows, features and essays – and as an avid podcast devotee realised just how special radio is as a medium through which ideas can be introduced, discussed and questioned. I wanted my research, on the Actresses’ Franchise League (the professional theatre ‘wing’ of the suffrage movement), to be ‘out there’ – to contribute to debate and knowledge about feminist theatre past and present, bring to life the performative propaganda of the suffrage movement and challenge ideas about the ‘canon’ of twentieth century British theatre. It was thrilling to be shortlisted and to make it through to the audition stage – a fascinating day – and of course even more exciting to be chosen as one of the New Generation Thinkers for 2014-15.

I was delighted to be picked as one of the ten, eight of whom were already post docs. Topics among my fellow New Gens included animal rights, the cultural history of beards, Indian translations of Shakespeare, the life of Disraeli, the link between citizenship and consumerism in 19th century America and Victorian suspicions of animal camouflage. We were a relatively diverse bunch, united by our enthusiasm for our research and our desire to communicate both!

If you’re keen to learn new ways to frame your research and share it with the general public and to learn more about what media organisations like the BBC want from young academics then the scheme is an excellent way to do that. My year as a New Generation Thinker gave me the opportunity to speak at the Hay Festival, the Latitude Festival, the BBC 3 Free Thinking Festival at the Sage, Gateshead and of course on the radio. I also got to make a short film with BBC Arts as a showcase for future presenting work – another challenge and learning curve that was a lot of fun. We were told at the audition day that shortlisted candidates who didn’t make it through to the final line up were very likely to be contacted by Free Thinking if something within their area of expertise came up – so it’s definitely worth applying even if you don’t make it into the final ten. Even now I’m an old New Generation Thinker the relationship with the producers has continued and opportunities still arise – for example I was asked to review the film ‘Suffragette’ when it came out earlier this year and have been invited to pitch ideas for next year’s BBC Radio 3’s arts programming.

In hindsight, it was probably a bit bonkers to do it in my writing up year, but actually for me the extra pressure, and the confidence that it gave me, helped. It made me look at my work differently, engage in different writing styles and think harder about how very detailed research can be adapted for a general audience. The producers are great to work with – and we had a day of media training at the AHRC which was incredibly interesting and useful. If you’re already blogging about your research and are active on social media, particularly Twitter, you’ll know how effective and stimulating getting your research ‘out there’ can be – not only in terms of clarifying ideas and broadening appeal but also for making connections with other researchers and the public. The scheme adds to that, opening up other possibilities and opportunities for disseminating your ideas to a wider audience and raising your profile as a researcher.

One thing to note – although it’s under the AHRC funding schemes, you don’t get a stipend for taking part. We got a small appearance fee if we were on the radio and had accommodation and travel paid for the festival appearances, but there was no fee for the BBC Arts film. This is worth bearing in mind – the opportunities are fantastic, but you need to be very flexible, able to get to London and find tight deadlines galvanising rather than terrifying!

My experience of being one of the New Gens has been really worthwhile – interesting, exciting, challenging and inspiring all at the same time. If you think you might like to be a part of it – get applying!

Applications for the 2016 New Generation Thinkers are now open. You can find out more here. And see the criteria for applicants here:

Do get in touch with me if you have any questions about the application process or the scheme – I’m on twitter @NaomiPaxton.

 

Bold, Brave and Bolshy: Actresses, Theatre and Votes for Women // Oxford Playhouse, 18th September

Bold, Brave and Bolshy: Actresses, Theatre and Votes for Women

18 Sep 2015, 17:00 – 18:15

The Top Room at Oxford Playhouse, Beaumont Street, Oxford OX1 2LW

Actress, performer and researcher, Dr Naomi Paxton explores the importance of theatre, performance and propaganda in the campaign for Votes for Women.

In 1908, the Actresses’ Franchise Pageants League was founded to support the suffrage movement. It staged suffrage events and readings, and its members wrote and produced plays in support of the cause. Eminent members included Cicely Hamilton, Ellen Terry, Elizabeth Robins, Edith Craig and Sybil Thorndike. By 1914 membership numbered 900 and there were groups in all major UK cities.

Dr Naomi Paxton has shared her passion for the work of the Actresses’ Franchise League at many events, including the National Theatre, Hay Festival and Latitude Festival and was one of the AHRC/BBC Radio 3 New Generation Thinkers for 2014-15. She is the editor of The Methuen Drama Book of Suffrage Plays (2013).

Presented in partnership with Oxford Playhouse

This Festival of Freedoms event aligns with the Foundation of the NUWSS banner from ‘The Beginnings of that Freedome’ exhibition in Westminster Hall.

Booking

Book your free ticket via Ticket Office 01865 305 305 www.oxfordplayhouse.com

Please note that the event will take place on the second floor of the Oxford Playhouse. We regret that there is no lift access.

If you have any questions, please contact parliamentinthemaking@parliament.uk.

[FYI: For those of you not familiar with Naomi’s work, you can hear her excellent paper given at this year’s NRN symposium here. You can also follow her on Twitter at @NaomiPaxton.]