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Feminist Walk of Newcastle

Map designed by Petra Szemán commissioned by the Women Artists of the North East Library and The Sociological Review

Feminist Walk of Newcastle for Undisciplining: The Sociological Review Conference 2018
With Holly Argent and Professor Maggie O’Neill
June 2018

The Feminist Walk of the City was devised by Professor Maggie O’Neill (University of York) and Holly Argent (Women Artists of the North East Library) for the conference ‘Undisciplining: Conversations from the Edges’ hosted by The Sociological Review, Tuesday 19th June – Thursday 21st June 2018, Gateshead, UK

Beginning at the Women Artists of the North East Library, tracing stories of women artists, scholars, suffragettes, writers, politicians, and citizens of the city, we will walk with the things that are remembered and things that are gone. At the start of the walk you will be invited to choose a book from the Women’s library collection to bring with you as a companion along the way. The walk will end at the BALTIC Gallery at the ‘Idea of the North’ exhibition, curated by Sirkka-Liisa Konttinen, (photographer and co-founding member of the Amber collective) with works exploring representations of women and girls in the North East by women photographers. You can also see the solo show by Turner Prize Winner, Lubaina Hamid, Our Kisses are Petals 

The walk is mostly flat, downhill and will not include stairs. The Women Artists of the North East Library is accessible by a lift.


1. Women Artists of the North East Library, Commercial Union House

An Introduction to Women Artists of the North East Library and arts based walking research.

2. Pilgrim Street

We discussed the work of Mary Astell (1666-1731) Mary Elstob (1683-1756) and Anglo-Saxon feminists.

3. Fenwicks Drawing Room Café, Northumberland Street

Here we highlighted the suffragette activities and meetings in ‘The Drawing Room Cafe’ at Fenwick’s, especially suffragettes, Lisbeth Simm, Ethel Bentham, Ethel Williams, Mona Taylor, Florence Harrison Bell, Emily Wilding and Kathleen Brown.

4. Plaque to Kathleen Brown, Grey Street

The plaque commemorates Kathleen Brown at the Turks Head Hotel where she took a celebratory tea after being released from prison. She was met at the station and accompanied by a large crowd with banners and cars decked in suffragette colours.

Noted the North East has a long and strong tradition of political women and women in politics such as Mo Mowlam, Vera Baird, Chi Onwurah, Catherine McKinnell.

5. Theatre Royal, Grey Street

Benches in front of the theatre are by Cate Watkinson, glass artist with words by poet/writer Julia Darling. Walkers were invited to read sections parts of a play by Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle ‘The Convent of Pleasure’ (1668) in which Lady Happy, our protagonist builds a convent for the pleasure of women only. The play explores narrative of desire, cross dressing, women’s sexuality and same sex relations.

6. St John the Baptist Church, Grey Street

We learn of the Anchoress of Newcastle Christiana Umfred-who withdrew from society for religious reasons, around 1260, to live for the rest of her life in a section of the Church. Literature suggests she probably witnessed services from a cruciform, a cross shaped opening in the area where she lived.

7. The Literary and Philosophical Society, Westgate Road

In search of Philosopher Mary Astell’s writings (b. Newcastle 1666) in The Literary and Philosophical Society, Holly came across the preface to ‘Letters of the Right Honorable Lady Vol 1’, a collection of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu’s letters written during her travels to Europe, Asia and Africa with a preface by M.A. attributed to Astell.

After reading excerpts, we invited contributions from the books people had brought with them from the Women Artists of the North East Library collection.

8. Side Galley, The Side

Here we connect with the work of Amber Films and the Side Gallery, the exhibition ‘Women on Women’ especially the work of Sirkka-Lisa Konttinen, (a founder of Amber film, photographer  who has documented the lives of women, working class communities, marginalised lives and the landscapes of the North East, from 1968).

We were lucky to have feminist filmmaker and sound recordist Elaine Drainville walking with us and gave in a greater insight into the current affairs unit she set up at Amber and shared with us how this brought together her filmmaking, politics and activism.

9. Quayside, Newcastle

Nearby is Live Theatre, the ‘home theatre’ of feminist theatre company Open Clasp and Live Theatre, ‘changing the world one play at a time’ and ensure the voices of ensuring the voices of victims of domestic violence, and women and girls, are heard.

10. BALTIC Gallery of Contemporary Art, Quayside, Gateshead

Our walk ends here with reference to works by feminist artists and especially works in the BALTIC Gallery as part of the Great Exhibition of the North: Lubaina Himid, and Sirkka-Liisa Konttinen, Tish Murtha and Karen Robinson exhibiting in the exhibition, Idea of North.

Maggie O’Neill is a Professor of Sociology at the University College Cork, Ireland. Walks undertaken by Maggie for her Leverhulme Fellowship can be found here: and as part of an NCRM/ESRC (Participatory Arts and Social Action Research) project with Umut Erel, Tracey Reynolds and Erene Kaptani –


An artist map was commissioned by the Women Artists of the North East Library and The Sociological review for the walk. The map was designed by artist Petra Szemán.

Printed copies of the map are available in the library.


Listen to the walk here

Many thanks to Nelly Stavropoulou for recording the walk and Elaine Drainville, who cleaned, prepared and produced the soundfile.

Hear from Holly and Maggie in conversation with Managing Editor of the Sociological Review Michaela Benson about the making of the walk. The FULL conversation is here or you can download it below.

Episode 6:  Walk of Newcastle