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Give town’s musician a noteworthy tribute’

PUBLISHED: 12:16 25 June 2009 | UPDATED: 16:52 25 August 2010

Dame Ethel Mary Smyth (1858 - 1944), the English composer and suffragette who composed the battle song of the women's social and political union and also wrote two autobiographical works.   (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Dame Ethel Mary Smyth (1858 - 1944), the English composer and suffragette who composed the battle song of the women's social and political union and also wrote two autobiographical works. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

A VIOLINIST wants a blue plaque on the site where a composer turned suffragette was born more than 150 years ago.

A VIOLINIST wants a blue plaque on the site where a composer turned suffragette was born more than 150 years ago.

Music teacher Janet Newis from Sidcup would like English Heritage to honour the site of the house in St John's Road, Sidcup, where Dame Ethel Smyth was born in 1858.

The house was demolished in 1929 to make way for the Market Parade shops and is currently the home of a boarded up Urwin's off licence.

Despite her parent's opposition to a music career, Smyth studied music in Leipzig and composed the opera The Wreckers which received its premiere in Germany on November 11, 1906.

In three acts set in a Cornish fishing village, two lovers try to warn ships of a trap which will lead to their destruction.

Next Saturday Sidcup Symphony Orchestra will be playing the opera at Towley Grammar School in Townley Road, Bexleyheath.

The violinist in the orchestra Mrs Newis described the Smyth's work as rousing and spirited.

She said: "We thought it was quite jolly and her music is rousing, spirited and quite challenging to play.

"Her music is not ladylike as it is not elegant music. It is well written.

"In her time she was an enterprising young woman when there were not a lot about. It would be nice to see her remembered locally. We have not got many celebrities locally.

"I don't know how to go about it getting a plaque. It would be good to get local people's support. She was quite a character."

Smyth met Tchaikovsky and later became friends with Schumann and Brahms. The atheist, who also wrote German songs became close friends with the author Virginia Woolf in her later life.

In 1910 she became a militant suffragette, joining the Women's Social and Political Union, sacrificing music for two years to dedicate herself to the cause.

She served two months in Holloway Prison after breaking the windows of anti-suffrage politicians.

English Heritage receives approximately 100 suggestions a year for blue plaques in London, almost all of which come from members of the public.

To be successful a London building associated with them must survive, and the person must have been dead for 20 years or have passed the centenary of their birth.

marina.soteriou@archant.co.uk

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