Sites of Sabotage: a History of Protest

From burnt-down pillar boxes to powerful street art, this panel discussion will explore if there is historic value in sites that have witnessed political and social protest.

In February 1912 Emmeline Pankhurst declared that: “the argument of the broken pane of glass is the most valuable argument in modern politics”. The right for some women to vote was won in 1918 in part through militant protest, including a considerable number of attacks on the built environment – both public and private property.

The Royal Academy was a prominent site of protest, with suffragette Mary Wood attacking John Singer Sargent RA’s portrait of the author Henry James on the opening day of the 1914 Summer Exhibition. Sargent’s portrait can be seen this year in The Great Spectacle exhibition, telling the story of 250 years of the Summer Exhibition.

Now, 100 years after the vote was won, Historic England and the RA present a panel discussion on the heritage value of places that have been targeted by protestors. How much historic value is there in sites that have witnessed political and social protest and should this be recorded, shared and looked after?

The panel will debate this topic in light of Historic England’s upcoming Suffrage Centenary listings that form part of Historic England’s HerStories campaign to enrich the national record of listed sites with women’s history.

Speakers include:

Prof Krista Cowman – Professor of History and Director of Research, University of Lincoln; author of Women in British politics, c. 1689-1979
Emily Gee – London Planning Director, Historic England
Stewy – artist, author of life size stencils of psycho-geographically placed British icons, such as Mary on the Green

Chaired by Rachel Cooke, journalist and writer.

This event is organised by the Royal Academy and Historic England as part of the London Festival of Architecture.


June 11, 2018

18:30 - 20:30

Admission: £15 / £9 concessions


Image: Emmeline Pankhurst arrested outside Buckingham palace, 1914


Royal Academy

Burlington House, Piccadilly, Mayfair, London W1J 0BD

020 7300 8090