Women's Histories Programme highlights for April and May

Upcoming events in our nationwide celebration of women, film and the archive.

April and May are packed months for Women's Histories, our ongoing season of screenings celebrating women within the UK's screen heritage collections. The next few weeks see exhibitors from across the country get involved, offering their own take on a topic of enduring, and increasing, significance. Our new collection of programme highlights features venue takeovers from independent curators and young programmers, festivals on a mission to rescue obsolete formats and recover forgotten stories, and an all-dayer giving you yet another reason to be impressed by the no-nonsense Suffragettes.

Running throughout April, Now You See Me is an eye-opening season produced in collaboration between Square Chapel Arts Centre (Halifax) and independent programmers Film Fringe (Leeds) that asks audiences to look again at British film history and focus on the sometimes overlooked contributions of women filmmakers. Retrospectives of contemporary cinema heroes like Sally Potter and Carol Morley feature alongside lectures uncovering the impact of women working in below the line roles in the 20th century and archive packages drawing on amateur film, cine club footage and experimental animation held by screen heritage collections across the North.

Star and Shadow Cinema (Newcastle upon Tyne) also adopt a co-programming approach for The Revealing Women series: a diverse, collectively organised season running 24 April - 29 May and exploring the representation of women in genre contexts, experimental forms of filmmaking and within debates around science and technology. Screenings of 1981 Tyne Tees documentary Laughing at Life and pitch black slasher comedy Prevenge look at the position of women within comedy and horror performance, with additional insight provided by stand up Kate Fox and genre expert Dr. Alison Peirse. And events showcasing the work of ecofeminist Donna Haraway and Sandra Lahire's anti-nuclear trilogy explore the important interventions that women artists and activists have made into debates of existential importance.

Birmingham's ever-exciting and consistently unpredictable Flatpack Festival adds a new strand for its 2019 edition, running 30 April - 5 May: Time Machine is a new home for the festival's ongoing interest in connecting the past with the world we live in today. Archive activists Invisible Women contribute to the inaugural Time Machine programme with a package of boundary-pushing animation that reveals how filmmakers have used this most versatile of forms to interrogate gender politics, sexual identity and social dynamics. And the Media Archive for Central England support Time Machine's focus on obsolete formats by bringing materials from their videotape collections to the festival. Their Video Tales events throw a spotlight on output from the community video movement of the 70s and 80s, reclaiming stories overlooked in their time, rarely seen now and at risk of vanishing from the archive.

Co-curation makes another appearance as Fabrica (Brighton) give up their May screening schedule to their young programmers group, Fresh Perspectives. The result is Visionary Women - a programme that takes the work of Serge Attukwei Clottey, currently exhibiting at Fabrica as part of Brighton Festival, as its inspiration for a journey through the themes of activism and creative change by way of Britain’s more diverse cinematic histories. Stops along the way include The Other Side of Underneath, Jane Arden's uncompromising rallying cry against society's gendered view of mental health; Welcome II the Terrordome, Ngozi Onwurah's seething debut set in a dystopian near-future ruled by violence; and Queerama, Daisy Asquith's deep dig through the BFI National Archive to uncover a century of gay rights and desires on film.

Herstories Festival takes over Stretford Public Hall from 10-12 May, offering local audiences the chance to engage with the rich history of women and social change in Manchester through film events and arts workshops, as well as a pop-up version of The John Rylands Library's recent exhibition Women Who Shaped Manchester. Film highlights include local heritage selections from the North West Film Archive showing Stretford over the years and Invisible Women, a documentary looking at the story of Manchester's pioneering LGBTQ activists Angela Cooper and Lucia Fitzgerald.

Following a year of centenary celebrations recognising the hard-fought progress won by the Suffragettes with the introduction of the Representation of the People Act 1918, Sensoria (Sheffield) return to the activities of the militant political movement and find a fresh new take for their 26 May event, Suffrajitsu. Taking inspiration from the martial art practiced by the Suffragettes as a means of self-defence against heavy-handed policing, the all day event will showcase work from artists and filmmakers D.N.W. (Deeds Not Words), practical jiu-jitsu demonstrations and a resistance workshop from Girl Gang involving movement, theatre, discussion and games.