Leicester to honour 100 years of womens suffrage with rendition of Pankhurst Anthem at graduation ceremonies

A choral work written to mark the women's vote centenary by relatives of suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst is to be performed at the upcoming summer graduation ceremonies.

The Pankhurst Anthem features music by composer Lucy Pankhurst with text by Helen Pankhurst, based on words written by her great-grandmother Emmeline Pankhurst. The Anthem was commissioned by the BBC to mark 100 years since women won the right to vote, and was premiered on the Radio 3 website on 6 February 2018- the centenary of the passing of the Representation of the People Act.

The Anthem is the second half of the choral work in its entirety, and explores the modern repercussions of the suffrage movement.

On 17 July, an all-female choir will perform the Anthem at the ceremony where comedian, television presenter, author and political activist Sandi Toksvig will be receiving an honorary degree from the University of Leicester.

At subsequent ceremonies, the Anthem will be performed as a duet, and later by the women and men of the University Chorus.

Performances are as follows:

  • Tuesday 17 July, 11am: by women of the University Chamber Choir and Chorus.
  • Wednesday 18 July, 3pm: as a duet by Alice Chambers and Claire Constance.
  • Friday 20 July at 11 am: by the women and men of the University Chorus.

Professor Jon Scott, Pro Vice-Chancellor for student experience, said: “When I first heard the Pankhurst Anthem, I knew I wanted to hear it performed at Graduation, the occasion when we celebrate the journeys travelled and the achievements of all our students at the culmination of their studies.

“The Pankhurst Anthem encapsulates the long journey towards gender equality and the centenaries of both the Representation of the People Act and of the initial founding of the University of Leicester, representing landmarks on the road towards a better society. I am therefore delighted that our students will be singing the Anthem to celebrate the progress made towards gender equality over the last hundred years but also recognising the distance still to be travelled.”

Graduating student and outgoing president of the Chamber Choir Claire Constance said: “In such a poignant year for women’s suffrage, I think it is wonderful that such a diverse group of women are able to come together and be unified through music. The Pankhurst Anthem will mean different things to different people, but I personally feel indebted to the women who gave so much 100 years ago, so that we may have the opportunities that are available to us today. To me, this piece reflects the sense of sisterhood and comradery which was the driving force behind the fight for women’s suffrage.”

Dr Paul Jenkins, Honorary Director of Student Music, added: “It is wonderful for University of Leicester student musicians to commemorate Emmeline Pankhurst and the centenary of women’s suffrage in graduation this year.”