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True stories of local WW1 women told through song at library event

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An exciting project that tells the true stories of remarkable women in the First World War through song is set to feature at Eccleston Library on Friday 17 November, as part of the award-winning Cultural Hubs, arts-in-libraries programme.

‘No Petticoats Here’ is the thought-provoking acoustic performance created by musician and artist Louise Jordan. Louise’s original folk songs shed light on the inspirational women who challenged expectations and left a lasting legacy.

Counted among them is renowned local footballer Lily Parr. Born and raised in St Helens in a large working class family, Lily had a great passion for sport as a child. During the First World War there was a growing interest in women’s football, and after playing in local women’s teams Lily was picked for the Dick, Kerr’s Ladies, founded in 1917 around the Preston munitions factory Dick, Kerr & Co.

At almost six feet tall, Lily’s strength was said to be one of her greatest assets, and she was particularly noted for the power of her kicking. Parr scored 43 goals for the team in her first season, when she was 14 years old, totalled more than 900 goals in her career between 1919 and 1951, and in 2002, she was the only woman to be made an inaugural inductee into the English Football Hall of Fame at the National Football Museum. Lily died in 1978 aged 73 and was buried in St Helens.

An aspiring female journalist who dressed as a soldier and travelled to the Western Front on a bicycle, the ambulance drivers running the gauntlet of enemy fire in Flanders, and the women who made the munitions and weapons of war, also feature in the performance.

Louise began researching extraordinary women and their remarkable achievements two years ago, and discovered that Dr Elsie Inglis, in her efforts to set up Scottish Women’s Hospitals during the Great War, was told to “go home and sit still; we don’t want any petticoats here” by a Member of Parliament. ‘No Petticoats Here’ was born.

Councillor Sue Murphy, Cabinet Member for Leisure Services and Libraries, said:

“This looks to be a truly wonderful event, and timely, following soon after Armistice and Remembrance ceremonies across the borough. Folk music has a characteristic tradition of storytelling, and there are some truly remarkable stories locally from the First World War to tell.

“From the women footballers who kept the sport alive during the war years, including St Helens’ own Lily Parr and the Dick, Kerr’s Ladies team, to the many ‘canary girls’ who worked the munitions factories, so-called because exposure to toxic chemicals in producing TNT dyed their skin orange-yellow.

“No Petticoats Here is a fascinating tribute to the women who lived, worked, and sacrificed in the First World War and I’d encourage local people to experience it.”

There are two performances on Friday 17 November, Eccleston Library, 5pm and 7:30pm. Free tea, coffee and scones are available at the 5pm showing.

Tickets cost £6, £5 (St Helens Library Card holders), or £3 for concessions. Book online at www.culturalhubs.eventbrite.co.uk or call into any St Helens library to purchase tickets.

The event is suitable for all ages, and lasts around two hours, with two 45 minute sets and a break in between.

Cultural Hubs, the award-winning arts-in-libraries programme, is delivered by St Helens Council’s Library Service and funded by Arts Council England.

Covering October to December, the ninth season has been curated to offer something for everyone, with a mixture of small theatre productions, music and comedy performances, arts exhibitions, and creative craft events to promote wellbeing – all adapted in imaginative ways for unique library spaces across St Helens.

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