I am here tonight and not a man is going to protect me, because this is a woman’s fight, and we are going to protect ourselves ... I challenge the government to re-arrest me!
- Suffragette leader Emmeline Pankhurst
What's this all about?
By 1913, social and political conflicts over women's voting rights had reached a boiling point and many militant suffragettes were fugitives from the law. To protect them from arrest and assault, the radical Women's Social and Political Union established the Bodyguard Society.
The WSPU Bodyguards - also dubbed the "Amazons" - were required to be quick-witted, physically strong and fit, trained in martial arts and willing to risk their own safety and freedom. They employed disguise, evasion and decoy tactics as well as hand-to-hand combat when necessary to defend their fellow activists.
Their missions included the infamous "Battle of Glasgow" of March 10, 1914, when armed bodyguards brawled with squads of police who were attempting to arrest suffragette leader Emmeline Pankhurst. Taking place on the stage of St. Andrew's Hall in front of thousands of shocked witnesses, the riot involved about two hundred people and left dozens injured.
In the aftermath, a furious controversy arose over charges of police brutality and activist provocation, as both sides claimed the moral high ground of self-protection. The Battle of Glasgow also sparked a new escalation of suffragette protests, including the vandalism of the priceless "Rokeby Venus" painting in London's National Gallery and a street fight outside the gates of Buckingham Palace.
Although the Bodyguard Society was widely reported upon during 1913/14, memories of their confrontations with anti-suffragists and with the police were lost amidst the cultural chaos of the First World War and their story is little-known today.
How will you tell this story?
No Man Shall Protect Us is closely based on detailed accounts by witnesses, journalists, police constables and radical suffragettes. Narration, graphics and rare archival film will portray the dangerous work of the Bodyguard Society during this spectacular clash of wills and ideologies.
We will also be using a theatrical "black box" docudrama format, with dramatic performances by costumed actors representing Emmeline Pankhurst, martial arts trainer Edith Garrud, Canadian Bodyguard leader Gert Harding, political radical Princess Sophia Duleep Singh and Chief Constable James V. Stevenson of the Glasgow police force.
In collaboration with the Babes With Blades Theatre Company's production of Anne Bertram's play The Good Fight, the documentary will also feature dynamic re-enactments of the Bodyguard Society's origins, training and tactics, performed by a cast of twelve actors.
How do we know you can do this?
Our video production credits include the 2011 feature documentary Bartitsu: The Lost Martial Art of Sherlock Holmes, The Scarlet Line web series (2012-14) as well as corporate promotions and the comedy short Chi-Town Showdown (2014), starring Doug Sohn and George Wendt.
Co-producer Tony Wolf wrote the biography Edith Garrud: The Suffragette Who Knew Jujutsu (2008) and the graphic novel trilogy Suffrajitsu: Mrs. Pankhurst's Amazons (2015) and is regarded as an expert on the history of the radical suffragette Bodyguard team.
What have you already done and what still needs doing?
We're fully prepared with all requisite production equipment and we already have all of our archival media, including rare silent film footage, newspaper articles, graphics and photographs. The script, which incorporates text taken verbatim from media reports and memoirs, will be in progress until we start editing.
Most of the funds raised by this Kickstarter project will go towards the black box and re-enactment sequences, including:
- cast and crew fees
- studio rental
- set design and construction
- costume and prop construction/rental
with the remainder going towards
- narration and voice-over
On-set production will take place during the first weeks of January, 2018.
How will No Man Shall Protect Us be viewable?
It will be freely available via Vimeo as an educational resource for schools, libraries, historical societies and interested individuals.
Risks and challenges
The history of the radical suffragette Bodyguards is a subject that appeals strongly, but to a relatively niche audience. That's why we have set a modest funding target and are planning for an agile, small-scale production.
Our collaboration with the Babes With Blades Theatre Company's staging of The Good Fight, however, affords us a cast and production values well beyond what we would otherwise be able to achieve on a $6000 budget.
If we experience a catastrophic equipment failure - if our editing suite explodes, for example - we have backup facilities to continue production at a technically simpler level.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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