Friday, 24 November 2017

Animating Hysterical Females: Marking the centenary of women’s suffrage

by multi-media artist Tracy Satchwill

Film still from Hysterical Females
'In 2018, we will be marking the centenary of women’s suffrage. As an artist with a passion for women’s history I wanted to create a film to commemorate the 100th year anniversary. The majority of us know about the history of suffragettes: the force-feeding, the protests, the breaking of windows, so I wanted to look at it from a different angle, focusing on the core of the problem which was the men’s behaviour towards women. This led me to look at the discrimination against Edwardian women in general, starting from girlhood. Why were young girls’ encouraged to suppress their ambitions? Why was marriage the only vocation for women? Why was self-sacrifice in women deemed a biological duty? Why didn’t politicians take women seriously? I wanted to communicate some of these obstacles in my film.

My interest in moving image was sparked last year whilst watching Rachel Maclean’s video Feed Me at the British Art Show in Norwich. The film was visually inviting and attractive however addressed ‘uncomfortable subject matter’ (British Art Show 2015) such as the sexualisation of children and infantile behaviour of adults. I realised elements of Maclean’s work could be applied to my own. I also recognised that in moving image I could communicate much more information about a narrative: being an audio, optic and tactile stimuli to the audience.

For the project I gained a deep understanding of Edwardian women by reviewing personal letters, scrapbooks, biographies and documents, gathered by historians, feminists and sociologists. I found Girls growing up in Victorian and Edwardian England a valuable resource for an insight into the expectations of girls in the home, and as adults, and for understanding the foundations of our contemporary society (Dyhouse, 1981).

Whilst researching British women’s history I felt angered, inspired and enlightened, driven to inform my audience about the fight for women’s freedom and independence and encourage discourse around the topics of gender, identity and society. In today’s culture these subjects are important to address at a time when the feminist perspective is abandoned by many young women as ‘unpalatable’ due to the ‘vilification and negation’ of the topic (McRobbie, 2009 p.1).

Film still from Hysterical Females

In the film I focused on the perceptions and experiences of people rather than factual events, looking at feelings and emotions. I felt it could be difficult and tedious to translate historical information creatively whilst keeping the facts accurate. I approached the subject in a non-literal way, creating an aesthetic surreal world, which communicated historical behaviours, attitudes and beliefs. I looked at the different perspectives of Edwardian women from the viewpoint of the politician, suffragette, anti-suffragist and husband. In the final film I represented these characters as playful and theatrical, which would attract a broader audience and the playful element would engage attention more effectively than bare facts, drawing from the works of Rachel Maclean.

Hysterical Females is about a young, curious but naïve woman called Esther who explores a visually inviting but uncomfortable world where there’s a struggle between power and freedom. In this domineering patriarchal society women are treated as victims and represented as automated, unconscious and desired objects. Men are the masterful creators and women dismembered, punched and severed art objects. The protagonist is a living doll, a fusion between a toy and a young woman (Walter 2010, p2), converted into an uncanny animated lifeless object.  The disturbing anti-utopian society is part reality and part fantasy, with the narrative being both disruptive and disjointed, with an emergence of the relevance and irrelevant.

Film still from Hysterical Females

A rebellion, a radical change is required to overcome and deconstruct the oppositions and boundaries of patriarchal thought. The appearance of an angel signifies entering another world. Her function is of prophecy, communication and guidance (Allmer 2009, p.12). She is a suffragette, a savour of the women of today.

Collage was the main medium used in the film, which corresponded to the popular women’s pastime of the Victorian era, combined with the techniques of stop motion, live action and animation, and the use of disjointed sounds, music and dialogue, aiming to create a powerful emotive piece.

The creation of my first film has been an enjoyable experience with the aim to inspire the audience to find out more about women’s history and it’s importance in our society today.
To watch the film, please click on the link below and use the password for access.

(password epankhurst)

My next project is a short video that urges women to embrace imperfections, expect less of themselves and focus on what they care about. Not Enough Time is communicated through cuttings from contemporary magazines, which puts pressure on women to live up to unrealistic expectations. '

Film still from Not Enough Time

Tracy Satchwill is a multi-media artist working in animation, film, sound and graphic art. She is open to collaboration with writers, musicians and community groups. For further information visit:

Allmer, P. (2009) Angels of anarchy: women artists and surrealism. Munich; London: Prestel.
British Art Show 8, (2015) Rachel Maclean [Internet] Available at: <> [Accessed August 2016]
Dyhouse, C. (1981) Girls Growing up in Victorian and Edwardian England. Routledge & Kegan Paul.
McRobbie, A., (2009) The Aftermath of Feminism: Gender, Culture and Social Change. London: Sage.
Twells, A. (2007), British Women’s History: A documentary History from the Enlightenment to World War I, London: I. B. Tauris.
Walter, N., (2010) Living Doll: The Return of Sexism. London: Virago Press.

Friday, 17 November 2017

Our prose competition has now closed for entries

Thank you to everybody who sent in their work. We have had over 300 entries of short prose, fiction and non-fiction, from all over the country. We will announce our top 40 here in the first week of January 2018 and then our national and regional winners will be announced a few days after that! Meanwhile we will be busy reading the scripts along with our guest judges Emily Midorikawa and Emma Claire Sweeney,  the authors of A Secret Sisterhood: The hidden friendships of Austen, Brontë, Eliot and Woolf