Jane Wells, project coordinator at Junction Arts, was recently interviewed by Artichoke to talk about her experience in the PROCESSIONS project.

PROCESSIONS was a 1418-NOW commission, produced by Artichoke, that was delivered back in 2018 to commemorate the 100th Anniversary since some women first got the chance to vote in the UK.

Jane talks about how Junction Arts engaged the local community in the project and the significance of this project to the participants.

You can listen to the interview on our soundcloud or read the transcript below.

For more information about our PROCESSIONS project visit: https://junctionarts.org/community-projects/processions/

Jane Wells: My name is Jane Wells, and I’m a project coordinator at Junction Arts. Junction Arts is an arts charity, and we’re based in Chesterfield. I was the project coordinator who was looking after the PROCESSIONS project. And at the time, I still feel the same, it was a highlight of my career working with such a fantastic group of women and girls who participated in the project, but in particular, I think joining together with women and girls from across the whole country, it just felt very special. It felt incredible. The groups that we worked with were identified through our key community contacts that we’ve got. We’ve been working in Bolsover district for 40 years.

So we’re well-established and we brought together a group of women and girls from three areas, one from Bolsover itself. The other one was from a small village called Creswell and the third group were from a town called Shirebrook. And some of the Shirebrook group were Polish who had come over to England to work at a well-known sports distribution center in the town.
These women were quite hard to reach in terms of participating in arts projects. And they did have a few communication issues, obviously, due to the language. It used to be a big mining community. Almost everybody worked in the mines at one time or had a connection to the mines. And I don’t know if you’re aware, but mining has a tradition of making banners.

So the concept of banners would have been familiar to a lot of the women who took part in the project. One of the standout stories, for me, during the making process came from a participant who had just left a long and unhappy marriage in which she’d never been able to make her own decisions. And she said that being able to have her voice heard during the workshops was a great step forward for her.

And she found it an especially positive experience because she was celebrating her freedom which she felt linked very much to the suffragette movement. But another standout story was the opportunity for us all to get to know the Polish women as individuals, rather than as a marginalized group and to learn about their backgrounds and culture.

It was an education for us all, but I know that they’ve gone on to take part in other projects, which has been, really a direct result of participating in the PROCESSIONS project. I think all of us felt that we were part of making history. I’ve got a quote, actually that sums up the reactions I think of most of us.

And this is from a lady called Janet, who says, “I remember thinking that while we were making friends and making our banner, hundreds of others were doing the same and having similar experiences. Women across the country were coming together. Good on them. I knew we were part of making history and maybe we’ll be talked about in the future.”

And that sums up, certainly how I felt. And I know how lots of the other women felt as soon as it was completed. We were able to keep the banner with us for maybe 12 months. And during that time, we put together a tour of local venues so that it could be exhibited for the wider public to see. And those venues ranged from Derby Cathedral, Creswell Crags museum, Chesterfield library to name three. In fact, when I had to send it, pack it up and send it back, it felt really sad to be doing it. We were very careful the way we packed it. And so that it wouldn’t be damaged, but it felt like we were losing a friend when we had to post it back to Artichoke.

Junction Arts is working with Artichoke, 14-18 Now and PROCESSIONS to deliver this project. Logos are shown.