Croydon cycling group celebrates centenary of women’s suffrage 

Lucy Zion, Sarah Parker Remond and Diane Abbott. Pic: Mel Sills

Lucy Zion, Sarah Parker Remond and Diane Abbott. Pic: Mel Sills

A local cycling body will bring together cycling and the achievements of black women in a night of music, poetry and powerful speeches in honour of the 100 year anniversary of women’s suffrage. 

The Croydon Cycle Theatre – an association of local cyclists who are both a theatre company and group of activists –  is hosting an event tonight, Wednesday, to celebrate Vote 100, the nationwide campaign to celebrate 100 years since Parliament gave women the right to vote. The night will acknowledge the accomplishments of black women in politics and activism both locally and nationally. 

The night will feature contributions from poets at Croydon’s Well Versed Ink, music from Croydon vocalist Tashara Forrest and speeches from anti-pollution activist Rosamund Adoo Kissi-Debrah of the Ella Roberta Family Foundation and Dr Michelle Asantewa, founder of Black History Walks. 

Vanessa Hammick, co-creator of the Croydon Cycle Theatre, said the event will focus on the triumphs and experiences of black women in politics and activism and honour black suffragettes who she said were often forgotten in the feminist narrative.  

She said: “The story of women’s suffrage isn’t over. Many female MPs today are the first female MPs in their constituency. Diane Abbott, the first black female MP, is one of the most important politicians in the Labour party. This is history in the making right now and we want to record and celebrate it.” Croydon has only just elected the borough’s first female MP, Sarah Jones, last year.

The night will bring together a variety of seemingly unrelated interests, from cycling to history to air pollution, into a colourful and positive narrative.   

The event stresses cycling as an important symbol for the suffragettes as bicycles became popular around the same time as the push for women’s suffrage. Hammick said bicycles became “a very powerful image” at the time and “entwined with the story of female liberation”. 

Rosamund Adoo Kissi-Debrah, founder of the Ella Roberta Family Foundation, created in honour of her late daughter who died from asthma, will also speak to highlight the borough’s high asthma rate. She said: “It’s an opportunity to speak to a different audience to raise awareness. The people of Croydon need to decide what they need to do to improve their health.” 

Rosamund and her daughter Ella Roberta. Pic: Rosamund Adoo Kissi-Debrah

Rosamund and her daughter Ella Roberta. Pic: Rosamund Adoo Kissi-Debrah

The group hopes that the array of speakers and performers will bring together the Croydon community to “encourage empathy, compassion and understanding,” said Hammick. “I hope that everyone leaves the event better informed, but also better connected to each other.” 

Vote 100: Black women, power and Parliament will take place Wednesday at 7:30pm at Braithwaite Halls at the Croydon Clocktower. Tickets are £5 while children are free, and drinks and mince pies will be served.

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