14 June 2018

NYCGB and Beamish, The Living Museum of the North in County Durham, are joining forces to make a music video celebrating the bicycle’s contribution to the early women’s rights movement.

The video will be released on YouTube in the Autumn, joining a national programme of activities and initiatives around the centenary of women gaining the right to vote in 1918.

The video will be shot on location at Beamish Museum’s famous Edwardian Town Street and Pit Village schoolroom in August, with around 100 members of NYCGB’s National Youth Girls’ Choir and the Beamish Youth Group singing and acting in period costumes.

The children will perform ‘A Woman (Wearing Bloomers) on a Wheel’ by British composer, singer and vocal coach Joanna Forbes L’Estrange. Written in a music hall style, the song humorously describes Victorian society’s outrage at the sight of ladies in new-look cycling trousers (‘bloomers’), and also offers a more serious message.

Joanna Forbes L’Estrange said: “Although ‘bloomers’ is ostensibly a tongue-in-cheek homage to the Victorian music hall song, there’s an underlying metaphor in which the restriction of women in society was reflected in their skirts and corsets. The arrival of bloomers served women in a much broader sense, opening up a whole new world of possibilities.”

British suffragette Alice Hawkins famously donned pantaloons to cycle round Leicester promoting women’s rights in 1811. And US civil rights leader Susan B Anthony wrote in 1896: "I think [the bicycle] has done more to emancipate women than any one thing in the world. It gives [a woman] a feeling of self-reliance and independence the moment she takes her seat.” 

The video shoot and production are being masterminded by award-winning director Louise Cowley, whose production company BLOC + BLUR has produced work for clients including Adidas, Manchester United and London Fashion Week. Funding for the video has been provided from the government’s £1.5m Women’s Vote Centenary Grant Scheme.

The finished video will be released on NYCGB’s YouTube channel in October.

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