Rosie Garland – ‘If I Had A Hammer’ at Dolly Mixtures by Instigate Arts at The Royal Exchange Theatre as part of Wonder Women. Guest blogger Helen Gordon Smith interviews

Rosie Garland


Rosie Garland is a novelist, singer and spoken word artist based in Manchester. Catch her singing with The March Violets or performing at Dolly Mixtures, a variety show of feminist theatre curated by Instigate Arts at The Royal Exchange Theatre.

So tell me about your performance – what’s inspired it?

It’s a spoken word piece I’ve done just for the festival, inspired by Manchester Suffragettes. I feel like the Suffragettes have been rewritten lately as nice ladies in hats, but they were radicals – they believed in direct action.

My piece is about one incident in April 1913, when a group of Suffragettes went into the Manchester Art Gallery just before closing time and smashed up some of the paintings with toffee hammers. They got arrested and imprisoned – but I got fascinated with the paintings they smashed. They weren’t picked at random; they’re all pictures of fainting, limp muses, goddesses on pedestals – nothing to do with real women.

One in particular stood out me. It’s of Syrinx, from Ovid’s Metamorphoses. It’s a horrible painting, it’s still in the gallery – she’s hairlessly naked of course, and whenever people talk about it they say she looks sullen, sulky, petulant. But when you know the story, it’s about Syrinx escaping her rapist, Pan! So what does it mean that the Suffragettes smashed this painting? What does Syrinx have to tell us about them, and us?

That sounds brilliant. So how did you get involved in Dolly Mixtures?

I just responded to a call-out for performers from Instigate Arts – I’ve been doing a lot of projects around the Manchester Suffragettes lately and it seemed like the perfect place for it. I’m really excited about performing at the Royal Exchange with a lot of other Manchester performers. I’ve known a lot of them for ages and it’s a great line up.

The festival is about Creative Activism. What would like people to take away from your performance?

What I’d love if is if set off a creative spark in people – if people came to the show and thought, I’ve got something to say about that, I want to get involved. If I can encourage other people to get creative that’s fabulous.

What else are you looking forward to seeing at the festival?

I can’t wait to see Rebel Dykes and the For Books’ Sake performance – I’ve wanted to see it for ages! And I’m really looking forward to the Portico Library event on 9th March, about the radical women who have books in the library. It’s about letters they wrote, and letters people wrote to them – quite often men telling them to stop being radical, which should be very entertaining!

Sounds ace! And finally, who’s your favourite Wonder Woman, real or fictional?

Ah, there’s thousands! I’ll say Sappho. 2000 years on and she’s still read and relevant, she’s incredible. I could pick a dozen more off the top of my head but Sappho is never a bad place to start.

Rosie will be performing at Dolly Mixtures at the Royal Exchange Theatre on 3 March, the show starts at 19:30. Free entry, more information can be found here. Rosie’s latest novel, The Night Brothers, is out on 2 June. Find out more about Rosie and her upcoming projects at

Dolly Mixtures at Royal Exchange Theatre, City Centre, 3 March 2017,  7.30pm to 10pm -FREE EVENT – BOOK HERE

A variety showcase of the most cutting edge feminist theatre and performance. From poetry to dance, from theatrical performance to cabaret and much more. Expect to be rattled and roused. But be warned: contents are not sweet! Curated by Instigate Arts.
Jane Bradley (For Book’s Sake)
Kate Fox (Poet in residence at Quarry Bank Mill)
Katherine McDermott

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