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Four leading alumni return to Sussex for panel debate on women in arts leadership

In anticipation of International Women’s Day on 8 March and to mark the centenary on 6 February of the 1918 Representation of the People Act - which gave many UK women the vote for the first time – the Attenborough Centre for the Creative Arts on the University of Sussex campus will host a panel debate on women in creative leadership.

Four influential female alumni will return to the University for the conversation, which takes place on 28 February and will be chaired by ACCA’s Creative Director, Laura McDermott.

  • Dr Maria Balshaw, the first female director in Tate’s 120-year history, has an MA in Critical Theory (1992) and a DPhil in African-American Visual & Literary Culture (1999) from Sussex.
  • Dr Philippa Gregory, a novelist, broadcaster and philanthropist, was awarded an honorary doctorate by Sussex in 2016, having graduated in 1978 with a BA in History.
  • Catherine Mayer, author and co-founder of the Women’s Equality Party, studied English Literature as an undergraduate at Sussex from 1978-82.
  • Dr Helen Pankhurst, who completed her BA in Economics in 1987, is the great-granddaughter of Emmeline Pankhurst and granddaughter of Sylvia Pankhurst. An author and activist, she is an ambassador for CARE International.

The panel will share recollections on their contributions to the fields of art and politics and their thoughts on being role models for future female leaders.

Event organiser Mary Connolly, Development Manager in the alumni team at Sussex, said: “We are honoured to welcome these outstanding women back to Sussex. They represent the remarkable community of alumni who are making a difference to society, and are an inspiration to our students.”

Laura McDermott added: “The four speakers are leaders in their respective fields and will no doubt offer some fantastic insight into their careers to date and on female leadership in the creative, cultural and political sectors, for those in our campus community and beyond.”

Catherine Mayer said: “Our cultural output has the power to drive change or to uphold the status quo, and too often it does the latter.

“One of the seven core objectives of the Women’s Equality Party is ‘equal treatment by and in the media’ because we cannot have one without the other or reach equality without a media and wider cultural landscape that draws on the talents and perspectives of women in all our diversity.

“The #MeToo movement has helped to puncture the myth of media, arts and culture as a haven of progressive values in a regressive world, but these testimonies have also showed how much remains to be done to close the gender gap.

“I am participating in this debate because the best way to celebrate the suffrage centenary is to continue the work.”

The panel event takes place at 8pm on Wednesday 28 February at the Attenborough Centre for the Creative Arts.

Tickets are £5/£3. There is also an allocation of Pay What You Decide (PWYD) tickets available to guests on a first-come, first-served basis. Proceeds will be donated to the Sussex Fund, which helps and supports Sussex students who find themselves in unexpected financial difficulty.

Posted on behalf of: Attenborough Centre for the Creative Arts
Last updated: Tuesday, 30 January 2018


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