Film ID: NEFA 20735 Video of NEFA 20735 Howway the Lasses HOWWAY THE LASSES 1977 Visitor TabsDescription Howway the Lasses was produced in the 1970s by prolific North Eastern animator Sheila Graber. It is an early example of regional amateur animation on a particular theme; in this case women’s liberation. It typifies the increased interest in single issue politics that was a particular feature of the late ‘70s. The film is a journey through history, following a cavewoman's attempt to obtain freedom in modern times. [The film is accompanied throughout with sea-shanty style accordion music] The film begins with an image of a cavewoman, the film’s heroine, with a stone kitchen sink fastened to her ankle my chain and padlock. Behind her appears the film’s title: Title: Howway the Lasses As the title text disappears, the kitchen sink begins to fill with bones and washing-up, and the heroine cowers beside it. A road sign then appears behind her, pointing the way to “Freedom 1978” – which is then comically appended with ‘Years Ahead’. The cavewoman races in the direction of the sign. She is quickly grabbed by a caveman brandishing a club. The caveman is forcibly shooed away by a Roman centurion soldier. The two pass a stone milestone signalling “1858 Years to Freedom”, and the film’s heroine now sports a Roman-style tunic. St. Hild [Abbess of Whitby Abbey at the time of the Synod of Whitby] appears, holding a Celtic Christian cross and a scroll with her name written on it. The Christian cross descends from the top of the screen and crushes the Roman solider. The film’s hero is now dressed in medieval garb, and her and St Hild dance together. The heroine then runs past a tombstone engraved with the text “Freedom 1298 years to go”. Various male soldiers grab her and drag her in the opposite direction. She passes a gothic style stone inscription, “912 years to freedom”; then a wooden road sign marked, “Freedom 400ys”; then another “325ys Freedom”. Her kitchen sink, now a large wooden barrel is increasingly filled with babies and young children. A woman riding a horse appears and delivers a key with a tag on it, “From Dorothy Forster”. Close-up view of the heroine holding the key. She uses the key to unlock the padlock fixing her to the kitchen sink. The heroine stands beneath a wooden road sign signalling, “263ys Freedom”, now detached from the kitchen sink. The frame floods with sea water, where a buoy floats holding the sign, “Sea of Apathy”. The heroine is submerged by the waters, and holds helplessly onto the buoy, almost drowning. The heroine is then rescued by a woman in a rowing boat labelled “Grace Darling”. Together they row past another road sign, “Freedom 140 Years To Go”. The sun rises on the horizon, flashing behind a flag marked, “Freedom”. A woman (Ellen Wilkinson), a man, and the film’s heroine march with a sign, “Freedom To Work”. A woman (Connie Lewcock), a man, and the film’s heroine march with a sign, “Freedom To Be Yourself”. The heroine ponders a second, then chases the marching man. The film ends with a view of the two arm-in-arm behind a sign, “Produced by Sheila Graber”. Context The long road to Geordie girl power: Sheila Graber charts the history of women’s revolutionary road to freedom in the North East - from Stone Age sister to suffragette. South Shields born animator Sheila Graber takes a wry look at the ups and downs of women’s quest for emancipation. Along the way, we meet some of the North East’s true pioneers – Northumbrian Jacobite heroine Dorothy Forster offering a role model to women in the 1700s, gutsy Grace Darling, and Labour class warrior and Jarrow crusader, Ellen Wilkinson, who was known as Red Ellen, not purely because of her fiery nature and left-wing politics, but because of her distinctive red hair. Also striding through history with little fanfare was the natural rebel and little-known militant suffragette and socialist, Connie Lewcock (nee Ellis), who settled in the North East and was a convert to the suffragette cause from the age of 14. The title of this animation is the message, which subverts a popular Geordie chant: ‘Get a move on lasses!’ After Graber’s animations screened on national and regional television including BBC Look North in 1975, Tyne Tees Television producer Heather Ging requested Howway the Lasses for the series Come In If You Can Get In. It featured in an edition on the history of women in the North East. As Graber has said: “I had free range … alas it had to be short as very little is written about N.E. Lasses – but what there was I condensed into this movie.” Over the years Graber moved from pastel to pixels and the world of computer animation, from amateur experimentation after work, (in her own words “a bit like Tony Hancock in The Rebel”), to professional commissions and an international reputation. She was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Royal Television Society in 2004.