'New Dawn' for Parliament: light sculpture celebrating women’s votes revealed

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07 June 2016

One hundred and fifty years to the day since the campaign for women’s votes began, 'New Dawn', an artwork celebrating all the individuals involved, will be revealed this evening (07 June) in Westminster Hall, the oldest part of Parliament. 

'New Dawn' is located above the entrance to St Stephen’s Hall, the site of numerous demonstrations, so that viewers of the artwork will literally stand in the footsteps of the hundreds of thousands of women and men who came to Parliament to fight for women’s right to the vote.

A contemporary light sculpture by artist Mary Branson, 'New Dawn' is a permanent addition to the Parliamentary Art Collection, as well as the first piece of abstract art commissioned for permanent display in the historic palace. Measuring over six metres high, the massive scale of 'New Dawn' is intended to reflect the size of the campaign, and the unique hand-blown glass scrolls that make up its dawning sun reflect the many individuals who were involved in the movement and the special contribution they made to modern democracy.

The sculpture is being revealed on the 150th anniversary of John Stuart Mill MP presenting the first mass petition calling for women’s votes in the House of Commons. This date is generally seen as the beginning of more than seventy year’s campaigning for the vote, involving hundreds of thousands of people across the UK.

Mary Branson, artist, said:
“After two years of work it’s a wonderful feeling to stand in Westminster Hall and see New Dawn lit up at last. She looks beautiful and seems to really belong in this remarkable space. I am truly honoured and humbled by all the support I have received from my team and the encouragement of so many people in this celebration of women’s votes.”

Caroline Nokes, Chair of the Speaker’s Advisory Committee on Works of Art, said: 
“Mary Branson’s New Dawn is a moving celebration of the vast numbers of ordinary women and men who worked and struggled for the vote, the bedrock of modern democracy.  With its complex layers of symbolism, New Dawn conveys and celebrates the scale and power of a mass campaign, while being a perfect visual fit for the ancient site of Westminster Hall.”

John Bercow, Speaker of the House of Commons, said:
“On the 150th anniversary of John Stuart Mill’s petition calling for the universal right to vote, New Dawn is a fitting tribute to the champions for liberty of the past, as well as an inspiration for future generations.”

Baroness D’Souza, Lord Speaker of the House of Lords, said:
“The role that women have played in shaping our democracy, throughout the history of Parliament, has long been a subject close to my heart. Honouring the campaign for women’s rights through art, and in particular through such a spectacular work as this, is something I wholeheartedly support. I hope the beauty of New Dawn, and the values it embodies, are appreciated by visitors to Parliament for years to come.”

Visit 'New Dawn'

For those members of the public who specifically wish to see 'New Dawn' there will be free, ticketed access to the artwork from 09.00-17.30 Monday to Saturday until 1 September 2016.

Further information

Photo: UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor

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