By Laura Mountford
Guest blogger for March
There seemed to be no better day for me to see The GB Project than on Saturday 8 March – International Women’s Day.
Kate Craddock’s one-woman performance piece centered around Gertrude Bell, a woman from the north east that was remarkable in many ways, yet so often forgotten by modern day audiences, in favour of the more accessible north east heroes. These heroes aren’t renowned writers, travelers or archaeologists like Gertrude. Instead, as Kate notes, they are footballers and celebrities. What initially seems as if it’s going to be a biography of Gertrude’s life – what with the chalk board and map on stage – quickly turns into an interesting commentary on the place of influential women in both Gertrude’s time and now, with Kate not only using quotes from Gertrude herself, but noting the words of other women in power such as Hillary Clinton, Condoleezza Rice and Margaret Thatcher.
Gertrude’s story is not only associated with the story of these women in The GB Project, but also with Kate’s own story of researching Bell over the years. Audiences see the people she met along the way that helped her to come to various conclusions about Gertrude’s influence over the Middle East during her own life and the lasting effect she has made on it even now, having helped to set the borders of what is now Iraq. We see how much of an effect Gertrude Bell has had on people’s lives and studies, despite the fact that she is not necessarily a known name.
This seems to be Kate’s main purpose in performing this piece. She wishes to not only make people aware of Gertrude and all that she achieved, but also to leave a question in the audience’s mind. Why are powerful and influential women so often forgotten as history goes by? Why do we expect so much of women in comparison to men? Kate herself admits to being disappointed when she found out that Gertrude was a member of the Anti-Suffrage League. She expected Gertrude to be strong yet sympathetic, something she also admits she would never expect from a man. Perhaps it’s time we stop expecting women to be anything more than human and start celebrating the way in which they influence humanity, rather than ignoring it.