Chichester welcomes the Fantastically Great Women Who Changed the World

It’s a genuine suffragette relative who wrote the book which has now given us the stage show Fantastically Great Women Who Changed the World (Chichester Festival Theatre, Wednesday to Sunday, February 14-18).
Fantastically Great Women Who Changed The World (credit Pamela Raith)Fantastically Great Women Who Changed The World (credit Pamela Raith)
Fantastically Great Women Who Changed The World (credit Pamela Raith)

But Kate Pankhurst, author of the award-winning work which started it all, admits it took her a while to make the connection.

“I didn't find out that I was part of the Pankhurst family until quite late actually. When I was growing up, I thought it was just a coincidence that we had the same name but a relative looked into the family tree and the story is that we are actually related. I think I was in my 20s when I found out so it's not like I had grown up channelling my inner suffragette. I'm not a direct descendant. I think the connection goes back to her husband's uncle.”

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But the discovery did certainly chime with what Kate was writing already.

“I was making children's books and part of the idea was to give really good representations of girls and women. It was something I was already doing but then it took me a while to join the dots. I was using the character of Amelia Earhart as a design reference and I showed those drawings to my agent. And it was a conversation with him that made me realise that I should actually make the connection. At the time there wasn't really a children's book that explored these women in history and explored them for a younger audience but my book came out at the same time as Good Night Stories For Rebel Girls, and we found there was a real appetite for discussing these women and what these women did for us.”

Then came the theatre show: “The book had been published a little while, maybe 18 months, and it was doing well. And it just snowballed from there out of the blue. You just don't know what is going to chime with people but I got an email from a theatre producer Kenny Wax and they said to me that they really liked my book and thought it would work well on stage but they would have to adapt it and change things.

"I went to a meeting in the West End with them and it was clear they really did know what they were doing. They did a show called Six and this show has been described as Six’s little sister! They brought it together and I had really detailed conversations and they had an incredible team working on it.”

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The result is a pop-fuelled, upbeat musical – an invitation to join our inquisitive heroine Jade as she breaks away from her class to take a peek at the not-yet-open Gallery of Greatness in the local museum.

On her journey she meets the incredible wonder women Frida Kahlo, Rosa Parks, Amelia Earhart and Emmeline Pankhurst, to name just a few. From explorers to artists, scientists to secret agents, the show is a chance to hear the stories of some of history’s strongest women, all independent icons who really did change the world.

Tickets from Chichester Festival Theatre.