The historian Sally Alexander helped to organised the landmark women's liberation conference at Ruskin College, Oxford in 1970 - and later that year, was one of the feminists who disrupted the Miss World contest at the Albert Hall which was hosted by the comedian Bob Hope and was televised live in the UK and more widely. The protest is regarded as a key moment which brought feminist ideas and values to a wider public. The event is at the heart of the 2020 movie 'Misbehaviour', in which Sally Alexander is played by Keira Knightley.
This interview took place at Sally's London home in January 2014 and is posted here with Sally's blessing. A full transcript is posted below. It formed the basis of an episode of the BBC programme 'Witness' - in both its (short) TV and (slightly longer) radio avatars. Those programmes are posted below. The audio has been very slightly edited to take out interruptions. It was not intended to be broadcast as an interview; some questions are re-taken at the end. The disruption of the Miss World contest had earlier been the subject of a BBC Radio 4 programme, 'The Reunion'.
Sally Alexander talking to Andrew Whitehead at her home in Pimlico in January 2014 about her role in the disruption of the Miss World contest in 1970. This interview was for the radio and TV programme 'Witness' and there were some retakes of parts of the interview at the end, which are also transcribed.
AW: Going back to 1970, was politics fun?
SA: It was fun. It was - it was sometimes fun. The friendships were fun. Oh yes, of course it was fun. I mean, all the groups and all the activities and so much laughter and so on. But it was also very hard work. We were learning a lot. We were very serious about our politics. We were reading and thinking and trying to understand the world we were living in and - and sometimes it was difficult and dangerous and we felt angry about a lot of the injustices that we perceived around us. Not just to do with women To do with poverty and class and inequality and so on. But also - but very particularly to do with women. So yeah.
Did you see yourselves as pioneers?
No. [pause] That's a difficult question. // I don't know how self-conscious we were about pioneering something. There was a sense of urgency. And it interesting to think now where did that sense of urgency come from. And it was - there was a sense of, yes, exhilaration and excitement that we were making a mark and making ourselves heard or the voices of women heard in a new way. Yeah maybe there was a sense of being pioneers.
So the idea of disrupting the Miss World contest how did that come about?
[pause] It was just one of many - I don't know whose idea it was. I remember going to a meeting with a whole group of other people. It was a meeting that we all kept quiet, very quiet, about. It was a packed meeting. I'm sure it was at the Women's Liberation Workshop offices but I might be wrong - it might have been somewhere else. It might have been someone's living room. But I'm sure it was at - And it was, we were thinking of how to do it and we had to do it secretly and privately because if word got out we thought the security would prevent us from entering. And it was all done by word of mouth. And we knew that there would be groups of women from other parts of the country. I really don't know where the idea came from - except Miss World, women being judged by their looks and their bodies and their - and when we heard it was Bob Hope compering and he'd just come back from Vietnam and we were all anti-Vietnam, or a lot of us were because - particularly those of us involved with the left. It just seemed - And it was television spectacle, family viewing. So we knew that to demonstrate against Miss World, if we were - if we could disrupt the spectacle, as we called it, the visual spectacle of a television programme going into everyone's homes, it would make an impact. I can't say that it was a priority for me. I did it but I - it was one of many other campaigns.
And the women who were involved. - mainly young women? students?
Yes. There were all sorts of women. The women in the Women's Liberation Workshop were - those of us who went on the demonstration were mostly young, and we were young mothers, we were students, we were claimants, we were - all sorts of different kinds of women - all sorts of different kinds of women. There were a lot of students. A lot of students came from Essex, I remember. And a lot of students came from - somewhere else, Sussex, probably everywhere. They were all over the hall. When we were in there, we realised there were groups of women dotted all over the hall. And in the intervals and in the bar and so on, we met them. We didn't talk to them but we could see that they were demonstrators like us.
So how did you prepare? What did you take along to the Albert Hall? How did you get your tickets?
We went and bought them. We were - // We planned in these quiet - we planned the demonstrations quite carefully in a couple of meetings if not more. And then a small group of us, who were going to go from Pimlico, just working out what we'd do, how we'd dress up. I had to arrange - loads of us who had children had to be careful about who was going to look after them and that sort of thing. So there was quite a lot of planning involved. And we were nervous. And we dressed up. We wanted to fit in to the audience. So we went in with our handbags and - looking good. And inside our handbags we had these little mice, and little flour bombs and little teeny white things like that to throw at the stage when the signal came. We planned to have - there would be a football rattle which would go off at a certain time and we thought when all the candidates were lined up on the stage, that we would - a football rattle would go, we'd blow whistles, we'd throw little tiny bombs and little flour bombs and so on and so forth and tiny mice. And we'd rush [word emphasised] - towards the stage. And then we thought we'd be thrown out. So that's how we'd planned it. And it sort of went to plan. We got in. There was a lot of security - much more security than we'd anticipated because there'd been a bomb scare. We didn't know that - but there had been. And outside the BBC vans, I think were threatened with bombs and that could have been the IRA, it could have been - the Irish Republican Army - it could have been the Angry Brigade, who were a non-personnel anarchist group who set bombs and buildings and so on throughout London. And it could have been any - it could have been anything. But it was certainly never the Women's Liberation Movement. But the police and security at the Albert Hall didn't know that. So there was a lot of security. And our handbags were searched. And we went in two-by-two, and there was a long queue. But we could buy tickets. And I went in with a friend of mine, Marguerita [?], and she and I looked like probably absolutely respectable, well-dressed women.
What were you wearing?
I can't remember. I think I - I think I wore a black - I probably wore a black crepe dress or something like that. I probably wore a Biba dress, I don't know.
Did you have a Biba dress?
Yes. Yes - of course I did in the sixties and seven- Yes, absolutely. They were so cheap and so good and easy to wear. I wish I had a Biba dress now. So yeah, we were - we were - it was quite easy to get in and we were surprised at that. But of course they weren't looking - I don't know what they were looking for, but they obviously weren't looking for women like us. We looked completely respectable. And when we got into the hall, there were family groups, there were dressed-up glamorous people, there were people from different parts of the world - I suppose from the embassies and so on. But we fitted in very easily. And we were terribly nervous, incredibly nervous. I mean, none of us had ever done anything like that before. And we knew - I did think: what on earth am I doing here, it is terrifying. It is so silly to say that because, you know, what were you doing. You were just inside the Albert Hall. But it was frightening. And we weren't quite sure how we'd react when the signal came.
And the signal came not at the moment people were expecting it?
No. The signal came very early because the woman who had the rattle - who I think was a woman, I think was a friend of mine in the Women's Liberation Movement called Jane Grant but it might not have been Jane - and - but it was somebody. She got so angry at the jokes that Bob Hope was - which were shocking - and at his general demeanour - His jokes were all falling flat and he was not - he hadn't got the atmosphere of this family entertainment at all. That she did the rattle. She did the rattle early. So we leapt up and we were - Marguerita and I were halfway along in the downstairs - and we leapt up, and I had to climb over people, who were horrified at what we were doing. All I can remember is clambering over people's legs, and a lot of other women too, and looking around and seeing - it was dark - and seeing other women leaping up and rushing towards the stage. And I got - I must have got, climbed over the barrier towards the stage. And about four or five policemen just pulled me off. And I was carried out by my arms and my legs out of the Albert Hall. And taken out to where other, lots of other women had been dragged out as well. And then some of us - And we were detained outside in a special part of the hall, in the foyer. And then - some of us were arrested. And that must have been much later. (10:25)
What were you shouting when you started to disrupt - ?
I can't remember what I was shouting. I was probably shouting: we're not beautiful, we're not ugly, we're angry - I don't know what I was shouting. I can't remember what I was shouting. But I was certainly determined to get on to that stage and disrupt. It's a very strange thing that enters into you when you're in a crowd of people and you become part of a demonstration. We had prepared for it. It wasn't that I didn't know what I was doing. But your fear goes and you're just driven by the adrenalin of the moment. So - I don't remember what I was shouting.
And what happened to Bob Hope?
He ran off the stage. We didn't see any of that. We saw none of that. You were just in the moment, in the darkness. But what people told us afterwards was that he'd just ran off the stage into the - And nobody could get him back on. He wouldn't - it took a long time to get him back on, he was terrified. He thought - he thought they were bombs we were throwing. // Bob Hope was - well, I didn't see him in the beginning. I didn't see Bob Hope when I was demonstrating because of, you know - But Bob Hope apparently ran off the stage, ran back stage, absolutely terrified and he took a lot of time to be persuaded to come back on - apparently, according to people who were watching - I wasn't watching what was going on on the stage so - I think I saw - I think when I first leapt up, I could see that he looked: Oh - like that - and: what's going on; and looked absolutely horrified. But I didn't see what happened to him after that. I did notice, as we were being dragged out, some of the Miss World contestants in all their - beautiful, beautiful young women in all their baubles and - bathing costumes and high heels saying: oh, leave them alone, they're just - you know - let them go, to the policemen. But I didn't see anything else. (12:30)
Did you hear Bob Hope's comment from the stage about Vietnam?
No, not at the time. Not at the time.
Do you remember hearing about it later?
Yes, oh yes.
Can you recount what you heard?
Well, what I - It's very difficult now to remember what exactly I heard, what I've been told and what I've been - read later. Because of course I remember Bon Hope, when I was sitting in the audience, I remember thinking: Bob Hope is a nightmare, he's not funny and he's likening us to Vietnam. But whether I actually heard him say: this is like being - this is worse - what I remember hearing is: this is worse than Vietnam. But whether I did hear that or I heard it afterwards or I read it, or whether it was just - because women were coming out all the time, women were being pulled out, there were lots and lots of women demonstrating. And we were all talking to each other. And there were even people - one of the people who was arrested, women who was arrested, Maya Twissle [?], was an artist, she was watching it on the television and she left her flat - I think in Fulham - and ran down to the Albert Hall to join us. So there were lots - lots and lots of demonstrators and activists, saying: did you hear this, do you hear that, did you see this, we did that - We were all very jittery being detained in this kind of fenced off area in the Albert Hall.
You said at the interval you were in the bar and you made eye contact with other demonstrators. How did you recognise them?
You'd just look at a couple of groups of women and think - an eye them with a little smile - and of course they looked - they just looked a little bit apprehensive like we did, and they'd look a tiny bit anxious maybe, and that you'd be looking out for women to make contact with. Some I knew. Some where my friends. And some - I didn't know at all. I got to know them quite quickly [chuckles] afterwards, but I didn't know them then.
So you'd been detained by the police. What are they asking you about? Were they suspicious that you're more than simply women's liberation protestors?
At the beginning we were detained at the edge of the Albert - we were detained inside the Albert Hall somewhere. And then some of us were put into another part of - were pulled away from the main group, we had no idea why, and were put into a little cluster. And then we were told - I don't know how long this took, I think it took quite a while, an hour or so. And then - and by this time I was getting very anxious. Very anxious indeed. You know, I had a little girl at home, and my partner was at home looking after her. And I began to think - I got frightened very quickly. But the police weren't asking us questions at that time. They were kind of moving us about, breaking us up, putting us into this group. And then some of us were taken off in a police van. Must have been about eleven - maybe ten, I don't know. And that was terrifying. And I remember thinking: this is a bit of a nightmare. But also not being clear why. And we were then taken to, I think it was Bow - I can't remember where we were taken. Were we taken - ? I don't remember which police station we were taken to. And there five of us were taken - I could then see there were five of us. And I didn't know them. And we were put in twos into a cell. Now I have to tell you we remember this differently. But I remember being in a cell with - with one particular woman who, anyway - and we were divided up.
And then we were separated and put in cells by ourselves. And then we were questioned. And I remember being really frightened. And I don't know why I was put in a cell by myself and questioned. And one policeman - it was the cliché, Andrew, we - one policeman would come in and say, oh well, I can see that you're a very well brought up young woman and you're a mother and you'll be wanting to get home so tell me what you've been doing and did you know what was going on at the Albert Hall at the time and who, where are you from. And I'd explain: I was from the women's liberation, we were demonstrating against Mecca and against the organisation of such a competition. They were so bored by that. And then another policeman would come in and be much more forceful. I didn't know why. I learnt afterwards. And I remember getting very tearful and asking to ring a lawyer. And I only knew one man who was a lawyer so I rang him. He was a friend of mine, Irving Teitelbaum. And I rang him and I said what had happened. He asked me what had happened and he said: you must answer their questions and if they charge you then you can ask for someone to be with you. And - I thought I'd be alright. And - did he ring Gareth, my partner at the time? I don't know, But anyway something happened - and this went on till the early hours of the morning and I was really frightened. And eventually a policeman came in and said somebody was prepared to stand bail and I could go. And I was charged with causing an affray and assault and assaulting a policeman. Well, I knew assaulting a policeman was a severe charge, serious charge. But I was so relieved to get out. And what had happened was that either the police or Irving had phoned Gareth and Gareth had had to go to get a judge in chambers and he'd had to get a special court order - he'd had to get Abigail out of bed, take her to see the judge in chambers, the judge in chambers had had to grant me bail and let me get out - because I'd got a daughter and because he could stand surety for me, I think.
Had you assaulted a policeman?
Andrew, that is a very moot point. I was found not guilty of assaulting a policeman - at the trial. The policeman, who was a very nice policeman I have to say as I got to know him through several days of the trial much later, said I'd stubbed a cigarette out on his hand. Which I probably did, because I was smok- , we all smoked. And we were smok- , can you believe we were smoking inside - the audience, you were allowed to smoke inside the Albert Hall. This was 1970. And we all smoked - and I smoked without ceasing. And so apparently when he'd - four policemen had dragged me off - he gave this very very detailed evidence to the magistrate about four - I was rather shocked actually, I didn't know four - I couldn't remember that four people had dragged me off and they'd all dragged me off and apparently I was, in my fear and fighting them back, I stubbed a cigarette out. But the magistrate gave me the benefit of the doubt and I had a very good barrister - and he thought it was not assault with intent. So I got off. But I got a suspended - I got a warning and it was not a good thing to have happened to me. So I was the only one of the five contestants - the five demonstrators who were arrested - who didn't conduct their own trial Because it was a serious charge and I was frightened. And I had a small daughter. I couldn't risk a custody sentence.
When you were being questioned, did the police think you had some link with the Angry Brigade or something?
Yes. The reason - when I was being questioned by the police, what all came out later and didn't come out at the time - I literally didn't know, I didn't know about the bomb scare, I didn't - But what came out later was that some members of the Angry Brigade, who were this anarchist group - of whom I knew some people on the edges of. And they were young. As I said, their campaigns were always non-personnel. It was not a politics that I agreed with or in any way - But apparently, one of them was writing to a woman called Sally. Well, it wasn't me, but they presumably put two and seven together and came up with - three. So that was what gave it a rather - that took away the - It gave it a rather frightening edge to my particular questioning. And - and the fact that I could not get out of my mind that I had Abigail at home, even though I knew she was with Gareth, I knew she'd be safe. But -
So you didn't get a custodial sentence, but you spent a night in Holloway?
Oh god. Well, we had our preliminary hearing whenever it was, a month after the - I can't remember any of this in detail about the timing. We had the preliminary trial and we were then - it was postponed because the charges were serious. And in, during the 19- , from 1968 to 1970 there'd been many student demonstrations throughout Britain. And the Cambridge and Essex students, some of them had been imprisoned. So we were - our age of innocence - our happy demonstration against the spectacle of Miss World, of the contest itself, was quickly ended by a serious political fear of a custodial sentence, imprisonment of some sort - or - and our association with other political groups. (23:00) It aroused a whole range of feelings in all of us - in myself, I can speak about, it's not - anyway, it's complicated.
It was the time of the IRA, it was the time of the Angry Brigade. And it was a time of student unrest, and not just in Britain but throughout Europe. So waiting for the trial was a bit alarming. But we had advice from feminist lawyers. And we - being very democratic in spirit, I remember we had many meetings to plan the trial. And my very bold - co-arrestees, women who were arrested as well as myself - there were five of us. And Jo Robinson among others wanted to conduct their own defence. And so I had to make the decision whether to or not and I was frightened to. But they did and they did it absolutely marvellously. So when the trial started in February. the women conducting their own defence gave all the witnesses for the prosecution a very hard time - questioned all their evidence. And the trial went on for days. And the magistrate got so cross with the way that the trial was taking that one night he put us in - he said: I'm warning you if you don't behave properly, and if you don't stop disrupting the proceedings of this trial - which was packed, at Bow Street magistrates court - I will put you in prison. So we all were saying to Jo: Jo, Jo, calm down, don't make a - But of course nobody could control their questions and arguments, and they were very good arguments, with every witness. And we were put in prison overnight. Which was ghastly. And boy did we - did we come round - did we go into court the next day and behave, let me tell you. Because the thought of a custodial - If that was what a custodial sentence was going to be well I certainly couldn't risk it.
Did you think at all about the women who were contestants when you were planning and disrupting the contest?
Yes we thought about the contestants all the way through. We never want- We knew why those women were wanting to be Miss World. It was an entrée into education, you won a lot of money, you might win a modelling career, you might go - a lot of them wanted to go and train to be lawyers, doctors. And in fact the Miss World, the Miss Grenada - who was the first Caribbean woman to win - she had a very distinguished career as a diplomat and teacher and all sorts of other things afterwards. So, we had no quarrel with the contestants. Our argument was with - why do you have to be beautiful and looked at like this before you get noticed as a woman? What about all of us who aren't beautiful and just want to be able to be educated and have jobs and o do something other than factory work or cleaning or secretarial work. What about becoming doctors and nurses and so on without having to be judged on your looks? That was - our thoughts were with the contestants all the time. And we wanted to make absolutely clear that we were not demonstrating - at the demonstration, that we were not demonstrating against the contestants in any way but against big business which made so much money out of this spectacle.
When you met up with your fellow demonstrators immediately after your release from police custody, what was your feeling? Did you feel that you'd achieved something? Or were you worried about what was coming next? Or -
Well I - We did feel we'd achieved something. We were absolutely astonished. When I got home, Gareth said that he couldn't - Gareth had been watching it on the television and he said: of course, I knew the minute I heard five women had been arrested, I knew you'd be one of them. And I'd say: why? why? And he'd say: well I just knew - I just knew you would be one of the ones arrested. We were exhilarated by the demonstration. And exhilarated by it success. And astonished by how successful it had been. And of course we hadn't seen it on the telly so we hadn't - So the phone calls and, the next morning, and the newspapers - none of which I kept - but all the newspapers were covered with it. And yes we were excited, but I was also - we were also frightened. We were frightened. And we got to know each other very well - those of us who had been arrested: Jenny Fortune and Jo Robinson and Maya Twissle and another woman who has never wanted to be - she's a very wonderful trade unionist and has not wanted to be remembered in that way.
When you look back on that moment now - more than 40 years later, almost 45 years later, are you proud?
I am proud of it - of the Miss World demonstration - but I'm proud of so much of what we did. And I do see Miss World as one of the - one of the most spectacular consciousness raising episodes, if you like. It did leave its mark. But it was one evening. It was one event among so much hard - years and years of hard work and campaigning in other respects. So that it's odd to me still that it's remembered - and to all of us actually. There were many of us demonstrating and it was one event among many. For all of us.
And is there one particular image from that evening that lingers in your mind still?
There are many images. One of them - one of them is inside the Albert Hall itself just as the demons-, just as we heard the rattle. And I remember looking round and seeing - it's a very powerful visual image - of a smoky, dark place with the spotlight on the stage. And all these women getting up - all these women, of course lots of women, people, sitting down still - but groups of women, and thinking - and Marguerita and I looking at each other and thinking: Ahhh [emphasised]. And leaping. That's one image. The other image is of being outside and not knowing what was going on. And being detained. And I'm afraid the third is of being in a cell, being terrified, having one policeman after another coming in, one lighting a cigarette and offering it to you and the other one pushing you quite hard to find out who was the political organisation behind you. I think they couldn't believe - it was the early days of the women's liberation movement, I think they couldn't believe that it was just a group of women organising informally. I think they couldn't believe that. The police, I mean. (30:25)
When you looked round the hall as you jumped up from your seat and you saw that there were women all round the hall jumping up, did you feel powerful?
Not at the time, no. [laughs] You didn't have time to feel anything. You felt: oh my God, I've got to do this. Aah. You know, you felt terrified. That's what you felt: I've got to do this. [pause] I didn't feel powerful.
You are a political activist as well as an academic through your life. Is this the moment of your greatest political test?
I was not an academic then at all. I wasn't - I think I learned so much through the women's liberation movement. And that was one moment. And I suppose the trial which was a great learning process - learning about law and learning about fear as well as pride. Yes, it was one test of many.
Your daughter was then five.
She'll now be approaching fifty.
Do you think what you did then has given her more opportunity in her life?
You'd have to ask people from that generation. I think the legacy - I think it wasn't - yes I think the Equal Pay Act, equality legislation and - yes, I think it did change the conversation about women and change the expectations of women for a generation. But now there are a whole lot of other issues to be dealt with in a different way by the younger generations - two generations now.
One small point: you keep talking about mice. Real mice?
No. Not real mice. They were little - what were they? - they were little toy mice. Little things. And little objects. And I think I had a little - I think we put flour into little scrunchy scrunchy pieces of paper. And flour bombs to flick around. And that's certainly what I can remember from - and we, we had leaflets and things. I think we just hurled the contents of our handbags actually, to tell you the truth. I think we just hurled the contents of our handbags around. I don't remember - very much. And I don't remember what happened to my handbag. [laughs] But - I can see that the Miss World demonstration was a vivid spectacle. And it's become symbolic of something, including the kind of joie de vivre, really, of the women's liberation movement. But it was only one among many other event.
When you made your flour bombs, did you have a manual? How did you know how to do it?
No, We all - we did - we were all quite serious. I remember this quite serious meeting in the Women's Liberation Workshop where we were all talking about what sort of things we should have and there shouldn't be anything that would hurt anyone. And I do remember people saying: well what you do, you get some little, screw up little pieces of paper and put flour in - people saying things like that. I can't think - I don't think I paid very much attention. I think my mind really was on - I mean, I paid attention that you must not talk about it, we didn't tell people that's what we were going to do. I told Gareth - but I didn't tell anyone else, that that was where I was going. We didn't say to people - friends and family, well we're going to - now we're going to the Albert Hall to demonstrate. No, we didn't talk about it. We were very secretive. And that was where the main planning was. And I didn't know all these other women who were going to be demonstrating. I only knew the women in my locality and some of the women in other parts of London. So that was the main planning, the secrecy. //
Well, I didn't see the demonstration myself but my husband, my partner at the time Gareth was watching with my daughter Abigail. And they did see - watched the demonstration. And they saw these huge disruption of the event. And it was spectacular - it was spectacular. And Gareth then thought, when he heard later - some time later - I'm not sure, he must have gone on watching television, put Abigail to bed, and then went on watching - when he heard later that five women had been arrested he thought: ah, no, Sally will be one of them. But he - he had put Abigail to bed meanwhile so it must have been quite a while later that he heard the news of my arrest.
Was he supportive?
Yes he was terribly supportive. He was terribly supportive all the way through. He was absolutely wonderful. // I think for all men at the time, the women's liberation movement was tricky - to live with and to live through. But he was always a very ardent supporter of the movement, yes.
// The fact that I had a child - // I wanted to make it clear that I had a child because it's so often said // that women's liberation was nothing about - that we didn't understand mothers. Whereas it was central.
// A common image of the activists in the women's liberation movement was that they were very young, they were students or drop-outs, they weren't mothers. How accurate was that?
Well, a lot of us were mothers. Because one of the things about the women's liberation movement, or any realisation of feminism, is that it's not usually at 17 or 18 that you begin to experience discrimination. You are older when you begin to grow up and enter the world and discover that certain doors are closed to you - this was in the '60s, the late '60s. And that certain opportunities were - certain doors were closed to you. And there was a lot of discrimination against women. And women were confined to a very - as they used to say in the nineteenth century - narrow range of occupations. And it was very often when you had children that you felt very concerned about what it meant to be a mother, the fact that you couldn't go out to work if you had children. So I think that the women's liberation movement was filled with young mothers - and older mothers of course. A lot of the women who were in the local groups and were active setting up women's refuges, setting up women's centres, were older women with children. But they - I don't remember - most of us who demonstrated that night, certainly from this local area in Pimlico, were young, youngish - I was youngish, I was 26, 27, I was a mother of a five year old.
Did you say anything to your daughter about the protest? Was she aware of it? Did her friends comment on it? Did you have to explain to her what you had done?
I'm sure I did. I'm sure I did. Because she was taken to court and she had to - she had this very wide-eyed thing. I used to be horrified of what she would say - she had to go and see a judge: Gareth took me to see a judge in the middle of the night, I had to get up. And I think it was quite alarming for her. But you'd have to ask her that now. We don't revisit those events very often. //
You've heard the rattle sound. What happened then?
Well it came much earlier - the rattle came much earlier than we expected it to come. (40:15) And it came at a moment when the hall was in darkness and so was the stage except for the spotlight on Bob Hope. So we leapt up. We both leapt up - like automatons really - and leapt up and thought: oh God. And we glanced at each other: we've got to demonstrate now. And I can remember just clambering over the people next to me - we were in the middle of the row, and we just clambered over all the people next to us. And I remember it being an awful scramble with my handbag and everything. And tore down the central aisle. And there were other women also coming from - you could see them also clambering over other people, opposite and coming over from different parts of the hall. And we ran towards the front. And all I can remember - and I think I must have climbed over the orchestra pit and got through the - maybe I'm exaggerating - got through the orchestra pit and was climbing onto the stage. And I remember being pulled - and fighting against the p- - whoever they were, the security men I thought they were, but they were policemen. They were policemen. I should have said that at the beginning, we could see the back of - when we went into the hall - we got in, we were feeling rather glamorous and rather gorgeous and rather fun, and thought what fun this is - we were dressed up and everything - we were astonished to see the whole of the back of the hall filled with men in - security men and some policemen all the way round the Albert Hall. And I remember thinking: that's strange, what are they - what are they there for?
You found out.
We found out, yeah. So, so we were - I was clambering over the - as I remember it, might be a more heroic memory than it really was - to get on to the stage. I was almost on the stage and I'd climbed over the orchestra pit and got - whereas I think Marguerita was dragged out much earlier. She hadn't got that far. So I must have been quite determined. Or lucky.
Who were you, what were you doing, in 1970? In 1970 I was a young woman going to university - starting a university course in history. I was 26,27. I was the mother of a five year-old daughter. And I was very active - and I'd been involved in the women's liberation movement. I'd organised, in Ruskin College in Oxford, a trade union college - I'd been one of the people who'd organised the first national women's conference in - earlier in the year in 1970. I do want to say I was one of many - I've said that haven't I. I don't want this to be just about me. // I wasn't a leader. //