New Dawn light sculpture in Westminster Hall celebrates landmark date for women's suffrage


A new £124,000 artwork will go on display at the Palace of Westminster, marking 150 years since a key event in the campaign for women to be given the vote.

New Dawn, described as a "contemporary light sculpture", will be revealed in Westminster Hall, the oldest part of the historic building, and is the first piece of abstract art commissioned for permanent display in the Houses of Parliament.

The work will be revealed on the 150th anniversary of John Stuart Mill MP presenting the first mass petition calling for women's votes in the House of Commons, marking the start of a campaign which lasted decades.

New Dawn by Mary Branson
New Dawn by Mary Branson (UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor)

Women won the right to vote and took part in a general election for the first time in 1918, but full equality was not achieved until 10 years later.

New Dawn, by artist Mary Branson, is made up of hand-blown, coloured glass scrolls mounted on a portcullis structure - the emblem of Parliament.

The artist said: "After two years of work it's a wonderful feeling to stand in Westminster Hall and see New Dawn lit up at last. She looks beautiful and seems to really belong in this remarkable space.

"I am truly honoured and humbled by all the support I have received from my team and the encouragement of so many people in this celebration of women's votes."

The cost of New Dawn was met from the existing Works of Art Committee budget, as well as donations from the House of Lords Works of Art Committee's budget and the Speaker's Art Fund, a charitable trust.

Parliament's gift shop will offer a range of merchandise to tie in with the new artwork, including a £60 silk scarf and £50 earrings.

Baroness D'Souza and John Bercow are both fans of New Dawn
Baroness D'Souza and John Bercow are both fans of New Dawn (Yui Mok/PA)

Commons Speaker John Bercow said: "On the 150th anniversary of John Stuart Mill's petition calling for the universal right to vote, New Dawn is a fitting tribute to the champions for liberty of the past, as well as an inspiration for future generations."

Lord Speaker Baroness D'Souza said: "The role that women have played in shaping our democracy, throughout the history of Parliament, has long been a subject close to my heart.

"Honouring the campaign for women's rights through art, and in particular through such a spectacular work as this, is something I wholeheartedly support. I hope the beauty of New Dawn, and the values it embodies, are appreciated by visitors to Parliament for years to come."