Hidden Voices is a new light and sound installation taking over Aldgate Square this weekend as part of the City's programme celebrating the centenary of women's right to vote.

A 19th-century social reformer, a top suffragette, a Bengali community activist, and three working prostitutes are among those chosen to paint a picture of women’s lives in the East End over the last century in Aldgate Square this weekend.

Processions: Hidden Voices is a massive sound and light installation staged by arts charity Artichoke to cap off the City of London’s Women: Work and Power season celebrating the centenary of women’s voting rights.

The installation, created by digital production company The Media Workshop, recognises the lives and contributions of local women who have lived and worked in the area, weaving together historic and modern day narratives to create a portrait of life in Aldgate over the last century.

Among those interviewed for the project are Reverend Laura Jørgensen’s, the first female rector of St Botolph’s without Aldgate, and Julie Begum, a Bengali community activist who shares her reflections on growing up in the East End during a period of great hostility towards migrant communities.

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Women march down past parliament to celebrate the centenary of women getting the right to vote. Photo and lead image by Sheila Burnett

Artichoke also recorded interviews with three prostitutes about the violence and discrimination they have faced working on the streets of the East End.

These interviews are interwoven with archive audio material from Dame Henrietta Barnett, the prominent Victorian social reformer who co-founded the first University Settlement at Toynbee Hall on Commercial Street.

Audiences will also hear from suffragette Grace Rose, who was Christabel Pankhurst’s chief organiser in London and spent a year evading police by working in disguise – first as a chorus girl and then as an elderly woman.

Hidden Voices will conclude the Corporation’s six-month programme of exhibitions, performances, talks and activities celebrating one hundred years since the Representation of the People’s Act, which granted the first British women the right to vote.

The installation follows on from Processions, Artichoke’s mass participation event in June when thousands marched the streets in the suffragette colours of violet, white and green in London, Belfast, Cardiff and Birmingham as a co-ordinated ‘living’ artwork.

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The Hidden Voices sound and visual art installation will be taking place in Aldgate Square.

100 organisations across the UK teamed up with female artists to create the banners carried during the four processions, a selection of which will be on display in Aldgate Square as part of Hidden Voices.

Helen Marriage, director of Artichoke, said Hidden Voices was an opportunity to explore the local history of women in Aldgate over the past 100 years.

“We’re really excited to be working with the City of London Corporation to animate the wonderfully developed Aldgate Square, and all the more so, in this year of women, when we are celebrating the courage of the suffragettes and suffragists, who fought for women to be heard, seen and recognised a century ago.”

Processions: Hidden Voices is on 20 October at Aldgate Square. Banner exhibition from 10am, sound and light installation from 6.30pm to 9.30pm.

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