Locating Sylvia Pankhurst

by Joan Ashworth


April 2022

Sylvia Pankhurst, Artist, Writer, Fighter project in post-production. This mixed media essay film explores what animation and other moving image interventions can bring to an archive. The focus is on Sylvia’s desire to be an artist and her socialist desire to bring beauty to everyday life. Her influences were Walter Crane and William Morris. Sylvia travelled to Venice as a young student to study the mosaics, and later was influenced by the Russian Revolution and its associated images of strong workers engaged in political change. Sylvia published several newspapers to address key issues of her time including opposing the invasion of Ethiopia by Mussolini. She was one of the first to recognize the danger of Fascism to the wider world.

Joan is working with editor Vera Simmonds and sound designer Philippe Ciompi to complete the project.

July 2019

Joan has been working with artist Andrea Artz who has folded key photographs of Sylvia Pankhurst as part of Joan’s film-in-progress. Joan is also working with filmmaker Laurie Hill  to visualise some of the archive material from the Sylvia Pankhurst collection held at the IISH in Amsterdam and the Women’s Library at the LSE, London.

Visualising Suffragette Prison Experience through the work of Sylvia Pankhurst.
As part of the commemoration of the Representation of the Peoples Act of 1918 Joan presented a paper Visualising Suffragette Prison Experience through the work of Sylvia Pankhurst at Art and Suffrage, a symposium at London School of Economics. The Women's Library where her project on Sylvia Pankhurst began. The collection is now housed at LSE and they hold many artefacts and sound recordings on which Joan's film is based.

December 2017

Ashworth attended Thinkers of our Time at the British Academy, London. The event discussed Sylvia's creative approach to her campaigns and the contemporary resonances of her work.

March 2017

Ashworth made a presentation of her work on Sylvia Pankhurst to the Faraday Ward Labour Party, Southwark to celebrate International Women’s Day and to explore how some of the suffragists campaigning methods could be adapted for today.

September 2016

Ashworth discussed prison uniform arrows, rubber tubing and cells in her paper Suffragette Prison Experience: accessing archive texts, artefacts and objects and representing and re-enacting through film and animation, at the Women’s History Network Conference 2016, Women’s Material Cultures/Women’s Material Environments, Leeds Trinity University, Leeds UK. www.leedstrinity.ac.uk/events/humanities/womens-history-network-annual-conference-2016


shortlisted for the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) Anniversary Research in Film Awards

Ashworth’s research using film and animation has been shortlisted for the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) Anniversary Research in Film Awards for her project How Mermaids Breed. The awards are “designed to recognise the creative and innovative work being undertaken at the interface between research and film by world-leading researchers, practitioners and filmmakers in the UK arts and humanities research community”. The winners will be announced on Thursday 12th November at a special Awards Ceremony at the BFI Southbank. To mark the shortlisting, Ashworth has put together clips from the making of How Mermaids Breed cut to a music track made for the film: vimeo.com/142172205


july & September2015

Sylvia Pankhurst documentary project 2015

Ashworth gave a paper Unfreezing Sylvia Pankhurst at the Women’s History Network Conference: Female Agency, Activism and organisation, September 2015. @AgencyFemale

And a paper Interrogating the Paintings and Texts of Sylvia Pankhurst Using Animation at the Society of Animation Studies Conference, Canterbury in July 2015, sasbeyondtheframe.com @sas2015beyond


March 2014

Joan Ashworth will be participating in the Sylvia Pankhurst Scholars’ Morning, Tate Britain, Monday 10 March 2014

This Scholars’ Morning, to coincide with the Sylvia Pankhurst display at Tate Britain, will gather together scholars, artists and activists to celebrate Sylvia Pankhurst’s work as artist and campaigner. The morning will be used to explore current debates about the relationship between art and politics. The event has been programmed by the Emily Davison Lodge with Tate Britain


december 2013

Joan Ashworth is working with Editor/Filmmaker Jo Ann Kaplan for the next stage of the research making a film from the archive findings and experiments.

Ashworth will be attending Clermont Ferrand Short Film Festival, France as part of We Are UK Film, in February 2014, supported by the British Council.

Sylvia Pankhurst and her son Richard. Double portrait circa 1932.
Estelle Sylvia Pankhurst Papers, inventory number IISG BG A10/754, International Institute of Social History, Amsterdam