A group of Cheshire’s leading business women and politicians have launched a year-long celebration of female endeavour at Chester’s Storyhouse.
This year marks the 1111th anniversary of the founding of modern day Chester by Aethelflaed, daughter of Alfred the Great - a great example of a powerful female figure in history whose story is not as well-known as it should be.
This year also marks 100 years since women first got the right to vote.
Cheshire has some interesting connections to the suffrage movement, not least in Ada Neild Chew, a working-class activist who rose to fame in Crewe after writing letters for publication to the local paper about the poor treatment of workers in the garment industry in the town.
She lost her job and became a political activist, a member of the Independent Labour Party and the radical wing of the suffragist movement.
Managing director at Lloyds Banking Group Elyn Corfield said: “With these two anniversaries, there seems no better time for us to celebrate female endeavour, both through historical figures and also in the present day.
“Cheshire is unique in that both Cheshire West and Cheshire East councils are led by women, and indeed their deputies are women as well.
“Cheshire East’s acting chief executive is a woman, as is the chair of our LEP.
“Our High Sheriff is a woman, as is the Lord Mayor, and we have all manner of female business leaders.”
The year of celebration is taking shape in a number of ways.
Chester’s Mystery Plays will be reinterpreted for 2018 by Deborah McAndrew, a British playwright and actor, known for playing Angie Freeman in Coronation Street in the 1990s.
Storyhouse will be scheduling a season inspired by the theme, and Chester Cathedral is hosting a Liz West sculpture exhibition in February.
The Sandstone Ridge Festival in May will focus on the centenary of women’s suffrage and the programme includes a one-woman show entitled Grasping the Nettle, based on the music and letters of the composer and suffragette Dame Ethel Smyth.
In June, Cheshire will be hosting 300 delegates from the National Women’s Register, and the county plans to celebrate women in science too, both in the annual Amazed by Science Festival and with partners such as Jodrell Bank.
CEO of Marketing Cheshire Katrina Michel said: “There is plenty going on, but we also asked our guests at this event to help us champion stories of female endeavour, whether that’s identifying an inspirational woman whose story we can help them to tell, or mentoring a young female entrepreneur.
“Collectively, we believe that we can make some noise.”