MPs portraits mark 100 year anniversary in new exhibition

By Pete Madeley | Attractions | Published:

MPs from across the West Midlands are starring in an exhibition celebrating 100 years since women achieved the right to vote.

Walsall South MP Valerie Vaz, by Frances Kearney.

The 209 Women exhibition features new photographs of every woman MP, with each one taken by a different woman photographer in a setting of the subject's choosing.

It marks the centenary of the 1918 General Election, where women over the age of 30 were allowed to vote for the first time.

The exhibition features photographers who are well established, and others who are just out of university.

Their work shows MPs posing in restaurants, swimming in the sea, wandering through an orchard and gazing out of the window.

Cannock Chase MP Amanda Milling by Kristina Sälgvik.

Valerie Vaz, the Labour MP for Walsall South, chose a scene near The New Art Gallery in her constituency as the setting for her photograph, which was taken by Norfolk based snapper Frances Kearney.

"It is such a beautiful place," Ms Vaz said. "You have the iconic gallery building, as well as some of the town's historic old buildings and the canal, which represent Walsall's industrial past.

"I told Frances I really wanted people to be able to look at the Photograph and see that it was Walsall. I think she has done a really nice job."


Wendy Morton, the Conservative MP for Aldridge-Brownhills, selected a profile short for her picture, which was taken by Ellen Nolan.

The MP said: "As the 431st woman to be elected to the House of Commons it is a privilege to be part of this amazing landmark exhibition. A huge thanks to my photographer Ellen Nolan."

Birmingham MP Jess Phillips described her rather mystical photograph, by Jessa Fairbrother, as: "My hand punctured, hand stitched, tarot inspired portrait."

Wendy Morton, the Conservative MP for Aldridge-Brownhills, by Ellen Nolan.


Cannock Chase Conservative MP Amanda Milling's portrait is a stark monochrome image by Swedish photographer Kristina Sälgvik.

Hilary Wood, founder and curator of the 209 Women project, said the idea for it had come from her own experiences of gender inequality.

"On the centenary year of women’s suffrage, I wanted to celebrate how far we’ve come, but I also want to bring awareness to continued gender inequality by championing the visibility of women in power.

"This exhibition will bring visibility to those women that are part of making the fundamental changes to women’s equality.”

Alison McGovern MP, chair of the Speaker’s Advisory Committee on Works of Art said:

“The women's movement has never been about one person's achievement: it is about all of us. This project carries out that vision, including all kinds of women from all kinds of backgrounds. It is a subtle but very true statement of equality.”

Jess Phillips, by Jessa Fairbrother

“The focus in politics has rightly been on getting a critical mass of women involved.

"But it is the same issue in many sectors, including art itself. The works will show that women can and ought to be portrayed in all their diversity. There is no one way to be a woman artist, to be a woman politician, to be a woman."

The 209 Women exhibition can be seen at Portcullis House, Houses of Parliament, until February 2019.

It is open to the public on non-sitting Fridays.

Tickets are free on Parliament's website subject to availability. After that, it will be shown at the Open Eye Gallery in Liverpool.

Pete Madeley

By Pete Madeley

Political Editor for the Express & Star. Responsible for local and national political stories, opinion, comment and analysis.


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