I’m just back from a weekend in London with the family. My teenage son is on an exchange trip in Spain at the moment so it was just the four of us (my husband and two daughters). An interesting change in dynamics!
On Saturday we went on a tour of the Houses of Parliament, a great value experience which I recommend highly. It was empowering and at times quite emotive. Both girls really enjoyed it and the timing was serendipitous; they have become very aware of politics in recent months – the Referendum, change of Prime Minister and, sadly, the death of Jo Cox, have put it at the forefront of their young minds. It was an amazing experience for them to stand in the Chamber of the House of Commons, which they have seen so often on the television. I remember going on a tour of the House with my local MP when I was at school, and they had exactly the same reaction I did – how much smaller it is in real life!
My 12 year-old has also been studying the Suffragettes in school, so it made it very real for her. After our tour of Parliament, we strolled through Victoria Tower Gardens, where there is a statue of Emmeline Pankhurst. At the foot of the memorial there is currently a photo of Jo Cox MP. Coincidentally, we also stayed at a hotel in Victoria, on Caxton Street; Caxton Hall, just along from our hotel, was strongly associated with the Women’s Suffrage movement in the early 20th century.
Emmeline Pankhurst was, of course, born in Manchester, and her family home at 62 Nelson St, Chorlton on Medlock, now houses the Pankhurst Centre, which is open to the public on Thursdays. I plan to take the girls there during the school holidays, while the memories are still fresh. (Another coincidence: Emmeline Pankhurst’s birthday was last Friday.)
Yes, I know they are young, and I know many parents want to shield their children from news and politics, for good reasons, which I respect. It has been a bloody week, with the terrible events in Nice on Bastille Day and the coup attempt in Turkey. It is hard to manage our children’s access to this information. Whilst in London, we stumbled across an anti-austerity march in Westminster. This was a visceral demonstration of democracy in action for the girls. Sadly, there are too many countries in the world where such a march would be suppressed, and even more where girls and women do no play an equal part in society. Democracy, freedom and equality cannot be taken for granted so I want my kids to know what it takes to fight for those things.