404 Ink and BHP Comics team up to mark 100 years of women's suffrage
- Arusa Qureshi
- 6 February 2018
Graphic novel collaboration We Shall Fight Until We Win celebrates a century of hard work by women in politics
On this day, 100 years ago, the UK took what would become one of its most significant steps in the fight towards democratic equality. The Representation of the People Act of 1918 granted all men and some women over the age of 30 the right to vote, a vital milestone in the journey towards universal suffrage. It may not have spelled absolute equality by any means but it was momentous in giving women the chance to be a part of the democratic process in this country for the very first time.
To mark this important anniversary, trailblazing publishers 404 Ink and BHP Comics have teamed up to release We Shall Fight Until We Win, a graphic novel that reflects on the role that women have played in shaping our current political climate over the past century. The anthology will feature illustrated snapshots of women from each decade of the last 100 years alongside stories of note that highlight details of their efforts and achievements. For both publishers, this project not only draws attention to women that deserve recognition, it also brings together some fantastic contributors from a variety of disciplines.
'The creators come from a wide range of backgrounds and it's really this variation that's so exciting.' explains Sha Nazir, Art Director and Publisher at BHP. 'We are thrilled to have confirmed experienced comic creators like Denise Mina and Hannah Berry, who have both made graphic novels in the past, as well as younger comics creators at the beginning of their careers like Kathryn Briggs. We have activists like Jenny Bloomfield, writers like Sabeena Akhtar and Durre Shahwar, and artists like Grace Wilson all bringing their experience and enthusiasm to the anthology.'
The project also presents an excellent opportunity for 404 and BHP, two of Scotland's most exciting independent publishers, to come together on a project that means a great deal to both.
'We really admire the strides Laura and Heather have made and were sure we wanted to work with 404 Ink,' Sha says, 'we just didn't know what book to make. In the middle of 2017 we were inspired by the upcoming centenary of the first British women gaining the right to vote as well as the current political climate and, after putting our heads together, came up with the idea.'
For 404 Ink, the feeling was very much mutual. 'Graphic novels had been something we were interested in doing but didn't have the capability to do.' says Heather McDaid, who runs 404 Ink alongside Laura Jones. 'We leapt at the chance to work with BHP, a publisher we were already great fans of, and on a project so important and interesting.'
We Shall Fight is a unique project for both publishers in that it represents previously unfamiliar territory. But as Sha notes, using illustration and art to tell these stories was a mutual decision. 'Making it a graphic work bridged the gap between 404's previous work and our own. We have both worked on anthologies before but we have never worked with creators who haven't made comics and 404 don't generally deal with comics. We know the art will bring vibrancy to the stories of these women and that the many different art styles will highlight the range in historical period and location in which these women created change.'
Both Heather and Sha are keen for the anthology to introduce readers to some of these incredible women, perhaps for the first time. 'I'm personally quite looking forward to learning about stories I wasn't aware of.' Heather says. 'The project is quite open in terms of who can be covered and I like the idea of discovering a woman whose story I didn't know. That's something we hope the project can do for many.'
'Most of the women featured deserve more airtime and recognition,' Sha continues, 'but a favourite of mine is Diane Abbott, the first black woman to hold a seat in the House of Commons. She has led a very interesting life, from reporting on Thames Television to becoming Shadow Home Secretary.'
Things have undoubtedly progressed in the UK as far as equality goes, but this would not be the case were it not for the pioneering women who fought hard for their rights and continue to do so today. We Shall Fight Until We Win is not only a celebration of the role of women in politics and indeed, history, but a reminder that the fight continues and that there is work still to be done.
'From "men's rights activists" to Trump's election, it is clear that there is still a resistance to women in key political roles,' Sha says. 'Westminster is 48th in the world for representation of women and women make up only 32% of the House of Commons. We wanted to celebrate these women and the great strides that they have made and are making to ensure politics is a space for women. They are the kind of example we want people, especially young people, to admire.'
We Shall Fight Until We Win is out in June 2018. Pre-orders for the project have launched on Kickstarter.