Each year Heritage Open Days sees architectural and cultural locations across the country open their doors for free visits to celebrate their heritage, community and history. The theme for 2018 has been Women and Power. The Hats off to Liskeard’s women workers project was part of Liskeard Unlocked Festival, which opened local historical buildings in Liskeard for people to explore, and learn the history of the town through its female characters.
Liskeard celebrated the history of women who worked and ran businesses in the town, including Alice Matthews, a printer and newspaper publisher on Market Street in the 1850s-1880s. Mary Stantan who ran Stantan’s Draper’s Shop in the 1860’s and Eliza ‘Madam’ Garland, who had a photography studio on Fore Street in 1919.
Hillfort and St Martin’s primary schools held workshops where the children made puppets, plaited straw and put on a performance using the characters they had made to tell the stories of Liskeard’s Women Workers. As part of Liskeard’s annual Ploughman’s Festival straw plaiting was demonstrated as a drop-in workshop for people to watch or have a go. More straw plaiting workshops followed at Stuart House for the Liskeard Unlocked festival and a gansey knitting demonstration at Painters art and craft shop. The creations from these sessions were made into a straw bonnet which was displayed in the town on St Matthews Fair day and modelled by the Mayor!
The children’s puppets were displayed in shop windows and the open buildings throughout September with posters giving information about the history of the building and the trades represented. These formed a trail families could follow around the locations where our puppet characters worked and ran businesses.
The project has opened people’s eyes to the incredible industry of local women and their contribution to the town’s success historically and now.