Actor Barbara Marten is passionate about women’s rights.
Asked whether she would consider herself to be a feminist, her answer is unequivocal: “Absolutely, yeah.”
And York’s brand new community production Everything Is Possible: The York Suffragettes showcases her beliefs in fighting for equal opportunities for women – both then and now.
This video shows the dress rehearsal of the opening scene outside York Minster
Campaigner who risked it all
Marten, best known for her role as Eve Montgomery in BBC hospital drama Casualty, has played a huge part in bringing the production of the show to street and stage.
The York Suffragetts
York Minster / York Theatre Royal
Tue Jun 20-Sat Jul 1 @ 7.30pm, Sat matinee 2pm
She carried out the research on which the show is based, and plays the part of Annie Seymour-Pearson, an ordinary Heworth housewife who became a suffragette – and risked her life and her family for what she believed in.
The show invites the audience to join those turbulent times.
Starting with a scene outside York Minster, then moving in to York Theatre Royal, Everything Is Possible charts the city’s suffragette story – as across the city, women run safe-houses, organise meetings, smash windows and fire-bomb pillar boxes.
The suffragette movement was crucial because it was when “women made their presence known and demanded a voice having been pretty much oppressed for a very long time,” Barbara told YorkMix.
“I found it astonishing when I was reading the early research, what these women did. It was so impressive.
“They were fearless and physically brave because they were knocked about by police, went to prison and went on hunger strikes.
“It’s the idea that they took to the streets and made their voices heard because it mattered; it mattered to so many women across the board, from all classes and ways of life.”
Emily Pankhurst in York
The most iconic member of the suffragette community, Emily Pankhurst, came to speak in York.
At the time, she was welcomed with the suffragette union’s banner, which is now being replicated by community crafts people, to be used in the play. Marten says “to see them making that, I just found it really choked me up”.
The production has a different vibe from most, because part of it is set outdoors, on the streets of York.
This gives an extra sense of authenticity and makes it just that bit different. “I love doing stuff outdoors. Way back I did street theatre and I love the idea of it,” said Barbara.
Like Blood + Chocolate in 2013, Everything Is Possible is a community production.
There are 170 volunteers, of all different experiences and ages, with the oldest person being 84 and the youngest only seven.
Many of the cast members and production team have worked on previous community productions. However, about 40 per cent of the actors and backstage staff are new volunteers.
Here’s some more of our chat with Barbara Marten.
‘The big scenes are terribly exciting’
How is it working with all the different members of the community?
What type of multimedia is being used?
What are your highlights so far?
Do you live in York? Do you have family here?
What are the highlights from your extensive TV career?
After this production, what’s next for you?