School of Architecture, Planning & Landscape

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Women and Power

As part of the National Trust’s Women and Power programme, commemorating 100 years of women’s suffrage, Cragside near Morpeth and Gibside in Gateshead, will host a series of exhibitions this year. Bringing into the light the lives of women who have worked in industry in the North East, these events will celebrate their impact on society, then and now.

A century on from the passing of the Representation of the People Act in 1918, which granted some women the right to vote, the conservation charity is exploring the complex histories of power and gender. It will give voice to the, sometimes hidden, lives and legacies of women who lived and worked across the special sites now in the care of the National Trust. 

In the North East, two National Trust properties, Cragside and Gibside, have collaborated with STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) innovators and contemporary artists to create engaging, thought-provoking exhibitions and installations. 

Engineering innovation at Cragside 

Home to pioneering industrialist and inventor Lord Armstrong and his wife Lady Margaret Armstrong, Cragside - known to many as “the home where modern living began” - is renowned for its ground-breaking and innovative spirit. Built in the 1860s by Lord Armstrong, the house and surrounding grounds were predominantly designed and engineered to harness the power of nature. As the first house in the world to be lit by hydro-electricity, it gained prominence on the world stage as a showcase of technological, scientific and industrial advancements of its time.

Created in partnership with Newcastle University, the second exhibition at Cragside, entitled Switched on! Shining a light on female innovation, will launch on 23 June 2018, which is also International Women in Engineering Day.

Switched on!is an interactive space created by female innovators from Newcastle University showcasing visions for Cragside 100 years from now.

A cohort of 9 trans-disciplinary PhD students and early career researchers, working in STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) industries, showcase a series of cutting edge designs that form a trail of interactive installations in and around Cragside.

The launch of Switched on! also ties in with the second day of the Great Exhibition of the North, a summer-long celebration of the North of England’s pioneering spirit.

Rachel Armstrong, Professor of Experimental Architecture and Rolf Hughes, at the School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape, Newcastle University, are leading the team: “Our innovators are rooted in a broad spectrum of sectors, meaning the presentations visitors will see will be varied and truly visionary. We have medics, chemists, mathematicians and engineers, to name a few, each working to continue and enhance the foundations on which Cragside was built.”

Kiki Claxton, cultural programme coordinator for the National Trust in the North East, added: “Both exhibitions at Cragside are aimed at highlighting the important contributions that women made to local industry during a time of major social shift. 

“By collaborating with the creative thinkers and innovators from Newcastle University, we are also working to inspire the next generation, both male and female, to explore careers in STEAM industries.”

Photograph by Assia Stefanova

published on: 21 June 2018