Alcester women denied the right to speak or vote

The Alcester Court Leet, which holds local power and control of charitable donations on behalf of the town, still won't allow women to speak, vote or join.

On Thursday 7th October a collective of women and men protested at the Alcester Court Leet public meeting, displaying the message “Equality NOW”. This Court Leet is one of many across the country that upholds traditions, manages local events, and controls charitable donations for the town. Only men are eligible to be Court Officers, who are voted in by an all-male group of jurors. Some of the Court Officers also gain reserved seats with local charities and trusts. This is not a private members club, but an organisation with power that affects town residents and local interest. However, in 2021 it still sees fit to exclude women from joining or engaging on equal terms with men.

The Steward of the Manor, chair of proceedings at the public meeting declared,

“There will be no presentments accepted that change the structure of the Court or its traditions.”

Alcester residents supporting gender equality are angered and embarrassed by the Court Leet's failure to update its discriminatory procedures and believe your gender should not decide whether you have the right to engage equally in an organisation of power in your society. They have tried numerous previous attempts to engage in discussion with The Steward, Court Officers and the Lord of the Manor, but so far these routes of engagement have been cut off. Now, following Thursday nights protest, they are asking people in support to raise awareness of this issue and sign the online petition which will be shared with the Lord of the Manor, Marquess of Hertford.

Kathrin Foster, Alcester resident
"Alcester Court Leet has adapted its tradition from being an institution of white church-going land-owners to allowing male residents of any ethnicity and faith to take part. There is no reason for continuing to discriminate on gender in 2021."

In 2019, Kathrin Foster and Emma Randall attended the public Annual Court meeting in segregated gender seating, where they stood up and asked to speak. They were told to sit down and shut up, then later belittled as a group of hysterical women. Additionally, some of the male jurors voted to discuss equality in 2019, but the topic has been silenced with no discussion, nor progress, taking place. Email correspondence with the Marquess of Hertford has also since been blocked.

Whilst the Alcester Court Leet refuses to update its gender discrimination, it is fast losing engagement and respect amongst residents supporting gender equality. This isn't a case of disrupting tradition, but rather updating it with relevance and inclusion to ensure its importance and respect for the future.

The current Bailiff of Bromsgrove Court Leet, Jo Slade, also stood at the front of the room at the Thursday 7th October Annual meeting in solidarity with the protest, but was told by the Steward of the Manor to sit down, be quiet and not address the room.

You can see the Facebook group representing the collective of residents seeking Court Leet equality here: