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Women's procession in Belfast
Thousands joined marches across the UK to celebrate the women’s votePhotography Jess Brien

Thousands march across the UK to mark 100 years of women’s vote

Belfast, Cardiff, London, and Edinburgh saw over 100,000 people stand for equality

Thousands march the streets of the UK today in #Processions2018 to mark 100 years since some women were granted the right to vote in the UK. Marches are taking place in Belfast, Edinburgh, Cardiff, and London in celebration of the ruling that came about due to the efforts of the suffrage movement.

In 1918, as the first world war raged on, the Representation of the People Act passed in parliament, granting some women the right to vote in that year’s upcoming general election, but only “women over the age of 30 who met a property qualification”.

The marches were organised by Artichoke, a leading arts charity that likes to “invade public spaces” to put on events that will “live in the memory forever”. Artichoke insist the processions are “a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to take part in a mass participation artwork to celebrate one hundred years of votes for women”.

On arriving in each city, free scarves were given to marchers in precise coordination so that when viewed from above, the crowds formed one enormous suffragette banner. 400,000 scarves were handmade in India with special dyes in the suffragette colours, "purple for loyalty and dignity, white for purity, and green for hope".

Lexie Grech, 28, a freelance producer who attended London's procession, said women were wearing, "white blouse shirts, long skirts in dark colours, and straws hats with flowers and ribbons. Some also wore vintage dresses, from baby girls only a few weeks old to women in their 80s".

"I was so emotional!" she said, "I kept tearing up- thinking about the likes of Emmeline Pankhurst and how they would have felt if they knew that one hundred years later, thousands of women would be marching in their honour, wearing similar clothing, having gone through the effort of replicating banners in cloth and chanting some of their anthems. It was truly powerful".

Jess Brien, 26, a pro choice activist from Belfast attended the march in her hometown. She said she attended the procession “to highlight the need for change on abortion rights in Northern Ireland. It’s been so incredible to see what a huge impact that voting has had especially post the referendum. We need to see people rallying together in the North to make a change”.

She added that “it was an incredible atmosphere with together for yes groups coming up from the republic to show solidarity. With so many banners, chants and voices from the republic, it really did give hope that we would see a change in the north”.

Erola Pairó, 35, a human genetics researcher from Spain, was at Edinburgh's march. She said, “the atmosphere was amazing. I went because I think it's good to remember that not so long ago women couldn't even vote, and that we achieved a lot since then, but that we are still far away from equality and it's good to know that but also to know that if we could achieve so much, together we can achieve equality”.

The crowds burst with colour, bearing beautifully intricate and lovingly created banners carrying messages of equality, justice, and adoration for the suffragettes. But the occasion was as much about calling out the inequalities currently faced by the women of today as it was looking back. One of the major focuses was Northern Irish abortion rights following the referendum in the Republic. Banners reading "reclaim the agenda" and "FREE, SAFE, LEGAL" voiced support for the pro-choice movement.

In London, chants of "Equal seats, equal voices" could be heard among the marchers, calling for 50/50 representation in parliament. 

Hannah from Flint PR, the firm behind the promotion of the processions told Dazed that “essentially the motivation behind this is a celebration. The locations chosen were the UK capitals, so the route chosen ensured the women would walk past the seat of power in each city”. The whole event took years, rather than months, to plan.